If you’re happy and don’t know it, there’s an equation that can show it.
So say two British researchers who last year developed a formula they say can be used to quantify happiness. The equation: P+5E+3H.
P represents Personal Characteristics (outlook on life, adaptability and resilience); E stands for Existence (health, friendships and financial stability), and H is for Higher Order (self-esteem, expectations and ambitions).
“This is the first equation that enables people to put a figure on their emotional state,” psychologist Carol Rothwell, who co-authored the report with Pete Cohen, told CNN. “The findings show that certain events, such as job promotion, can impact positively on your overall happiness.”
Not all professionals agree that the equation adds up, however.
“The idea, that you want to quantify what happiness is, is a good idea,” said Linda Jones, a psychology professor of Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. “In reality, I don’t know how relevant it is and how can it be carried out.”
The researchers compiled their findings from interviews with 1,000 adults aged 18 and older in London. They asked participants to pick five scenarios that made them happier or less happy from 80 different situations. Participants were also asked about their natures, outlooks and situations.
The answers of the questions had a rating of 1 to 100. The higher the rating, according to the formula, the happier the person.
“So if I had an 85, I’m good for the day,” Jones said. “How does that sell?”
Jones also questioned the use of terms in the questionnaire that most laypeople don’t understand, said 80 questions is too long for most respondents and observed that the 18-and-older benchmark doesn’t allow for people finding happiness in different ways at different stages of life.
The British researchers said their results demonstrate that men and women found happiness in different ways.
Seven out of 10 women found happiness being with family, and one out of four by losing weight. Most women were happy with sunny weather, pay raises and doing a hobby.
Men reported receiving happiness from victories by their favorite sports teams. Men also found happiness in hobbies and romance.
But Belmont sociologist Andi Stepnick said those findings “seem quite engendered,” or shaped by expectations of society. For example, she said, men and boys are expected to follow sports, whether or not they really do so, while women are pressured to watch their weight by a culture obsessed with thinness.
“It’s too typical of our society to say that women and men had different things that made them happy, which reifies notions that we are different creatures,” Stepnick said.
Jones also questioned the motives behind the study, which was conducted for a holiday company desiring to understand what made people happier. “There’s a motive here, not necessarily a bad one,” Jones said.
So, can happiness be put into a mathematical equation? Jones said she believes people can still be happy despite their circumstances.
“What it boils down to is I make the decision to be happy,” she said.
Chasity Gunn, a student at Belmont University, is an intern with EthicsDaily.com.