Y: What are you smiling about, Don?
D: I just got a promotion!
Y: Congratulations! I hate to say it, but your happiness won’t last very long.
D: What do you mean?
Y: A research team did a study on how major life events affect our wellbeing, using a sample of 14,000 Australians who had participated in a survey that examines households’ economic and personal well-being, labor market dynamics and family life. They specifically looked at data surrounding 18 major life events.
D: So which events make us the happiest?
Y: Marriage, childbirth, and a major financial gain—but they don’t make us happy for as long as you may think. Generally, the positive effects of the events wore off after two years.
D: And what events have the worst impact on our wellbeing?
Y: Unsurprisingly, it was the death of a partner or child, a separation, a large financial loss, or a health shock. The good news is that people generally recovered to their original levels of wellbeing after about 4 years. Another interesting part of the study was the gap between affective wellbeing, which is the frequency and intensity of positive or negative emotions, and cognitive wellbeing, which is a more goal-oriented evaluation of life satisfaction. The event that had the biggest gap between the two was childbirth: while affective wellbeing, or what we might call “feeling happy” decreased during the first year after having a baby, cognitive wellbeing, or what we might call “life satisfaction” was pretty high.
D: Well, even if my happiness about my promotion is fleeting, I want to celebrate. Want to join me?