Swedish soccer star Zlatan is associated with happiness, but
not iPhones. A new study at the Sahlgrenska Academy and Lund University
suggests that our collective picture of what makes us happy is more about
relationships, and less about things.
News articles published online by Swedish dailies during
2010 were analysed in the study. By analysing which words most often occurred
in the same articles as the Swedish word for happiness, the researchers could
pinpoint our collective happiness.
"It's relationships that are most important, not
material things, and this is in line with other findings in happiness
research," says Danilo Garcia, researcher in psychology at the Sahlgrenska
Academy's Centre for Ethics, Law and Mental Health.
The article analysis, which embraces more than one and a
half million words, shows that words like "Prince Daniel",
"Zlatan", "grandmother" and personal pronouns (such as
you/me, us/them) often appear with the Swedish word for happiness. Words like "iPhone",
"millions" and "Google" on the other hand, almost never
appear with the word for happiness.
"This doesn't mean that material things make you
unhappy, just that they don't seem to come up in the same context as the word
for happiness," says Danilo Garcia.
The study is a part of a larger research project on how
people describe both positive and negative events in their lives. The
researchers believe that the word analysis reflects a collective perception
among the members of our society as to what should make us happy.
"Just as the Beatles sang, most people understand that
money can't buy you happiness or love," says Danilo Garcia. "But even
if we as individuals can understand the importance of close and warm
relationships on a social level, it isn't certain that everyone is aware that
such relationships are actually necessary for our own personal happiness."
The study: "A Collective Theory of Happiness: Words
Related to the Word 'Happiness' in Swedish Online Newspapers" was
published in the scientific periodical Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social