Who doesn’t want to be happy – or in some cases, happier? We’re often given advice on how, or which factors we should look to in future to achieve happiness. A recent study looked back, offering an interesting point of comparison.
In 1938 the Bolton Evening News asked its readers, “What does HAPPINESS mean for you and yours?” It was thought to be one of the first studies into the ‘science’ of happiness.
Readers were asked to rate the importance of ten ‘happiness’ factors: equality, politics, beauty, religion, leadership, humor, leisure, knowledge, security, and action. They were also asked whether it was easier to be happier in Blackpool or Bolton (both situated in Lancashire, North West of England, 20 miles from where I grew up), at weekends or midweek, how often they were happy, and whether luck played a part.
Two-hundred and twenty-six Boltonians responded in the form of a letter. Security, knowledge and religion came out on top.
Last year the University of Bolton’s Centre for Worktown Studies hooked up with the Bolton News to recreate the study, with the findings showing that the nature of happiness had changed for the people of Bolton. Security still featured in the top three, but knowledge and religion were replaced by good humor and leisure in the top spots.
Interestingly, seventy-six years on, people were also happier when they were away from Bolton, and happier on the weekends. They also believed that luck played a greater role in their happiness, in comparison to people in 1938.
The study was a little simplistic, yes – most of us know that happiness is about more than ten factors that you can identify on a happiness index. There are interdependencies, social and cultural factors, and there’s also the importance of relationships which play a major role. But the findings offer an interesting perspective on how things have changed for people. Boltonians in 2014 seem to value more fun and laughter in their lives.