What do the happiest people value the most? According to a new study, there are many factors that play into your overall well-being — and a good night's sleep, solid friendships and great sex are all in the top five.
Conducted by the Oxford Economics and National Centre for Social Research in Great Britain for Sainsbury's Living Well Index, researchers asked more than 8,250 Britons to fill out a questionnaire about their lifestyles in order to determine what really defines a happy life.
The national score was calculated using results from 18 different topics grouped into six themes: community connections, finances, relationships, health, lifestyle and environment.
The factors explain the differences between the top and bottom 20 percent of the population in quality of life and happiness:
- Sleep quality
- Support network
- Sex life satisfaction
- Mental health
- Economic activity
- Spending time outdoors
- Overdue debts (i.e., not paying bills on time)
Researchers developed a point-based system, which they used to calculate a score, and found that the average person has a Living Well score of 62.2, with the top 20 percent scoring between 72 and 92. What set the top 20 percent apart from everyone else? You might be surprised.
First off, the happiest people are sleeping better. According to the findings, getting a good dose of nightly shut-eye is worth more than quadrupling your disposable income. People enjoying the most rest scored a whopping 15 points higher than those who struggled with sleep. "Better sleep is the biggest single contributor to living better," researchers explain.
According to the Mayo Clinic, adults should aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night to get the full benefits of a good night's rest, which include a strengthened immune system and more mental and physical energy. It's no surprise that sleep plays such an important part in the lifestyle and training of pro athletes too.
Job security and having close relatives in good health also fared well for happy people (and get this), as did having real, live and nonvirtual relationships with those around them, such as their neighbors. "Building stronger relationships locally can increase our Living Well score by almost two points, resulting in happier, more satisfied lives," researchers wrote.
Social relationships won't just make you happier, they can also be great for your health. Several studies have concluded that having an active and fulfilling social life is crucial to maintaining physical health, especially for adolescents and elderly people. So get off all the social media and go introduce yourself to the crazy cat lady down the street. (She's actually a total sweetheart.)
And don't feel guilty about spending your money brunching with pals: The study found that eating socially increased scores by nearly one point — the same amount as doubling disposable income. So, basically, most people get the same amount of satisfaction eating avocado toast with their BFF than those who got a massive raise.
Unsurprisingly, the happiest people are also having better sex, with nearly two-thirds of the top 20 percent reporting satisfaction between the sheets. Clearly, there is a plentitude of perks to having an active sex life, and happiness is just one of them. Not having sex can also negatively impact your health. A recent study found sex on work nights is even beneficial to one's career, as they are likely to perform better in the office the next day.
So the secret to happiness is good rest, good friends and good sex. Sounds about right to us!
"The analysis … reveals that, in a world that's never been more connected, the richness of our relationships and support networks remains among the biggest determinants of how well we live and represents an area of our lives in which we can act," explains Ian Mulheirn, director of consulting at Oxford Economics.
If you are looking for ways to be a happier person, here are 12 attributes found in genuinely happy people for a little inspiration.
What Do YOU Think?
Do the findings of this study surprise you? What makes you happiest in life? What other things contribute to your overall happiness?