Top 3 Needs For Happy Life — Fascinating Changes Since 1938

How beliefs about what makes us happy have changed in the last 80 years.

How beliefs about what makes us happy have changed in the last 80 years.

Eighty years ago the top three things people thought were most important for happiness were security, knowledge and religion.

By 2014 only security was still in the top three, and the other two spots had changed to good humour and leisure.

Meanwhile religion had dropped to tenth, and last place.

The results come from two surveys carried out almost 80 years apart.

For both surveys people in Bolton, England replied to an advert asking them to answer the question “What is happiness?”

Here are some of the responses form both 1938 and 2014:

“Enough money to meet everyday needs and a little for pleasure.” (1938)

“Knowing that my rent is paid on time and I can afford to eat healthily.” (2014)

“I would like a little home, not many possessions … congenial and satisfying companionship, the availability of good music and books.” (1938)

“Engaging in my hobbies, spending time that is free of worry … Simple things like enjoying a nice meal or receiving care and affection.” (2014)

“When I come home from the pit and see my kiddies and wife, I am happy.” (1938)

“Simple things like going out for a walk…….you don’t need tons of material things to be happy, you just have to be happy in the place you live and with the people around you.” (2014)

Despite the changes in the top three, Sandie McHugh, one of the study’s authors, pointed out that there were a lot of similarities:

“The overall impression from the correspondence in 1938 is that happiness factors were rooted in everyday lives at home and within the community.

In 2014 many comments value family and friends, with good humour and leisure time also ranked highly.”

The results were presented at the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society in Liverpool.

Image credit: nosha

Author: Dr Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004.

Get free email updates

Join the free PsyBlog mailing list. No spam, ever.