Happiness Topic Of Interest For Centuries Psychology Essay
Happiness has been a topic of interest for centuries, started from the Ancient Greek philosophy until recently psychology too has turned its attention towards the study of happiness and well-being (Boniwell, n.d.).In addition, the emergence of positive psychology demonstrates to us that the meaning of happiness is becoming increasingly important in our society nowadays (Compton, 2005). Therefore, arousing awareness of happiness and detect the determinants of happiness is very important.
In the late of 17th century, people considered happiness as a matter of luck, virtue, divine favour (McMahon, 2010). For the ancient Hebrews, Honderich’s study (as cited in Compton, 2005) declared that they search for happiness by following an approach called divine command theory of happiness. Based on this theory, ancients believed happiness can be achieved by following the rules set down by a supreme being. In contrast, it is said that happiness can be achieved as our own right and decision today. The new direction and orientation of psychology, positive psychology study and search for ordinary human strength and virtues in order to make human life more fulfilling (Compton, 2005).
According to Seligman (2002), the author of Authentic Happiness, proposed that happiness is made up of pleasure, engagement, and meaning. Pleasure means the “feel good” part such as the feeling of rapture, ecstasy, warmth, comfort, and the like. Engagement is about flow, when individual is completely absorbed in something that is challenging within the range of ability, time passes more quickly than usual and get a deep sense of accomplishment. Meaning refers to using our strengths to contribute to a higher purpose.
In Seligman view, pursuit of pleasure is the least important when we are searching for happiness. It is because pleasurable feeling as having sex, watching a movie diminishes rapidly. In the pursuit of happiness and good life, we should search for contentment, long term satisfaction, and authentic happiness (Seligman, 2002).
According to Tenzin Gyatso, the current Dalai Lama (as cited in Compton, 2005) said that everyone are seeking something better in life regardless of whether one believes in religion or not. Since happiness is an end goal of life for human being, there is no denying that we are all searching for happiness throughout life. Even so, not every one of us are wondering what makes us happy in life and clear about the determinants of happiness.
For instance, we could not provide a definite answer while someone asking us “What does happiness mean to you?” Is it about having a lot of money? Is it having fun or any other factors that lead you to a state of happiness? Myers’s study (as cited in Compton, 2005) claimed that the common answer is “more money” when we ask people what they believe they need to be happy. It is not surprisingly since we all live in a consumer-based society. High income allows us to buy luxury goods and protect us from unexpected expenses such as medical fees. Although most of the people believe that earning more money would increase their happiness, there are some studies claimed that there was no significant relationship between income and happiness and having more money doesn’t bring happiness (Lane, 2000; Dallas, 2012). In addition, researcher discovered that materialists or people place a high value on money are less satisfied with their lives than other people (Sirgy, 1998). Thus, it is needed to examine the effects of income on the level of happiness.
Besides, researchers have discovered three fundamental sources of happiness: genetics (temperament and personality), life circumstances (wealth and health), and our own choices ("What Is Happiness?," 2011). Although genetic factors have strong influences on happiness, there is almost the same power under our own choices. Thus, we have the power to make ourself happier. Al-Naggar et al., (2010) proposed that some people look for happiness in external factors such as material goods while others search for happiness in internal factor such as self actualization. Hence, we can know that happiness means different to different people.
Based on Wilson’s study (as cited in Diener, Suh, Lucas, & Smith, 1999), it revealed that the demographic characteristics that correlated with happiness are young, healthy, well-educated, well-paid, optimistic, extroverted, , worry free, religious, married, modest aspirations, high and job morale. Even though there are some predictors can actually cause people to be happier, researches have found some of the factors are actually not associated or only mildly associated with happiness. For this reason, researcher also examined the effects of religious faith and marital status on the level of happiness to verify and gets rid of some of the common misconception.
Admittedly, Argyle and Diener’s studies (as cited in Sharma & Malhotra, 2010) have demonstrated that happiness is the key to mental health and subjective well-being. They have proved that happiness can enhance people’s health and longevity, work performance, sociability, altruism, creative thinking and problem solving, and play an important role in people’s mental health by acting as a buffer for stress. As we can see there are innumerable benefits of happiness to human being, the achievement of happiness is so important to every one of us throughout our life.
Statement of Problem
According to an article from The Star, the suicide rate in Malaysia has increased to between 9 and 12 persons per 100,000 populations from eight in the 1980s (Loh, 2010). The increased suicide rate highlights the importance to promote good mental health in the country. Ironically, Malaysians do not take mental health issues seriously.
In 2010, there was a lawyer jumped down from the eight floor of a hotel. What are the factors that a man with a successful career easily ends his life? If we say money will bring happiness to us, does this professional have a low income? According to his wife, her husband had been depressed over three civil cases he was handling.
Moreover, Dr Yen Teck Hoe, president of the Malaysian Psychiatric Association, who cites a WHO (World Health Organisation) study that predicts that depression will be the second highest cause of disability by the year 2020, after cardiac disease (Loh, 2010).Additionally, researchers found that there was a significant and negative relationship between happiness and depression (Bahrami, Rajaeepour, Rizi, Zahmatkesh, & Nematolahi, 2011).Thus, searching and promoting happiness become important matter to us at the moment.
Besides, it is commonly believed that money can buy happiness and this statement remains a controversial issue. A great number of economists believe that higher income lead to higher happiness whereas psychologists are not so confident and accept as true. (Tenaglia, n.d.). Diener & Seligman (2004) believe happiness comes from personal relationships and discover other factors that are more important contribute to happiness. Thus, there is a need to study the relationship between income and happiness.
Furthermore, a number of studies found that being married is associated with feeling happier (Compton, 2005). However, Paykel’s study (as cited in Compton, 2005) proposed that problems with interpersonal relationship, especially intimate relationships, are the factors that trigger depression.
Last but not least, research suggested religious people are happier and more satisfied with their lives than those who don’t hold a strong religious faith (Park, 2010). However, a study led by Lim (as cited in Park, 2010) stated that the reason religion makes us happy is having close friends at church instead of faith.
Therefore, it is important to investigate the effects of these variables on the level of happiness amongst the population.
Significance of study
According to the World Health Organization, depression will be the second most disabling condition if the rates of depression continue skyrocketing (Loh, 2010). Thus, it is significant to further study on happiness as it decrease the possibility of depression. In addition, Koivumaa Honkanen, Honkanen, Koskenvuo, and Kaprio, (2003), stated that the risk of committing suicide has a significant negative relationship with the level of happiness.
Besides that, Seligman’s study (as cited in Lopper, 2007) confirmed a huge number of benefits derived from happiness. For example, happy people live longer, high productivity, healthier, and so forth. Although majority of the empirical studies on the determinants of happiness have been explored by Western countries, there are only a small number of studies in Asia’s developing countries such as Malaysia. Therefore, it is essential to conduct this study and arouse awareness to further study on happiness.
As a result, the aim of this study is to create awareness and ameliorate the level of happiness among people in order to promote a happy and harmonious society.
Is there any significant relationship between the level of individual income and the level of happiness?
Is there any significant relationship between religious faith and the level of happiness?
Is there any significant difference among single, married, divorced, and widowed in the level of happiness?
Happiness. Happiness is a subjective measurement of well-being (SWB). Researchers in psychology inclined to index subjective well-being with scores on happiness (Compton, 2005). Thus, happiness is somehow attached to subjective well-being. In addition, happiness is an emotion which refers to one’s emotional state and feeling about the world and oneself (Compton, 2005). Positive psychology believed that the scientific study of human strengths and virtues enable individuals and communities to thrive and flourish. Therefore, we may learn to become happier by better understanding human strengths. Furthermore, researchers stated that evaluations of happiness are subjective phenomena, therefore should be measured with subjective reports (Compton, 2005). Besides that, individual has the right to weight his or her level of happiness as they are the one who experience the events that happening to them (Alexandrova, 2005). Thus, researchers believe that we can reliably and honestly self-report our state of happiness.
Subjective Happiness Scale (SHS). Participants’ level of happiness is measured by 4-item Subjective Happiness Scale. Lyubomirsky, Sonja, Lepper, and Heidi (1999) stated that one items asking respondents about their general level of happiness (e.g., “In general, I consider myself”), another items asking respondents to characterize themselves by comparing with their peers (e.g., “Compare to my peer, I consider myself”), while another two items briefly describe what constitute a happy and unhappy individual and respondents need to responds by choosing the extent to which the description characterize them (e.g., “Some people are generally very happy.) This response format of these four items is based on 7-point Likert scales. Thus, the possible range of scores on the Subjective Happiness Scale is from 1 to 7, higher scores reflecting greater happiness.
Income. Personal income refers to income that individual generates and his happiness does not depend on the conditions of his family or on his status within the family. Due to the lack of studies on happiness in Malaysia and there is no standard answer to classify income category, the categories of income level are basically classified into four categories as ≤RM2000, RM2001-5000, RM5001-10000, >RM10000.
Religious faith. Religious faith refers to a set of assumptions about how individual are connected to one’s God (Compton, 2005). It is a faith or belief in one’s God which has overall a modest positive effect on one’s health and the most important source of happiness (Ellison & George, 1994).
Marital status. Single, married, divorced, and widowed were used to distinguish marital status in this study. Single refers to participant which may in a relationship but not married. Married refers to participant which married in the count of law. Besides, divorced meaning for participant which are divorced from a marriage relationship in the count of law, whereas for widowed, participants who are married but their spouse of marriage has passed away.
There are a variety of conceptions of happiness (Tenaglia, n.d.). Beside psychological perspective, politics, economics, philosophy also have their definitions of happiness. Happiness refers to the degree to which an individual appraises the overall quality of his life as a whole in a favourable way (Veenhoven, 1997). Researcher supposed a person must have a conceptual referent when appraising his happiness as it is a subjective evaluation (Rojas, 2003). Conceptual Referent Theories of Happiness (CRT) stresses the importance of heterogeneity; meaning that conceptual referent does not have to be the same for everybody.
According to Rojas (as cited in Tenaglia, n.d.), there are four basic theories of happiness which have been formulate over time as hedonism-utilitarianism, the desire theories, the objective list theories and the life satisfaction theories.
Hedonism Theory. According to Hedonists, happiness consists of the predominance of pleasure over pain ( Tenaglia, n.d.). Pleasure is the basic motivation force behind human behaviours. Every action that brings pleasure is human needs and wants. A happy life maximizes feelings of pleasure and minimizes pain.
Desire Theory. Desire theories hold that happiness is a matter of getting what you want (Tenaglia, n.d.). It means that fulfilment of a desire contributes to one's happiness regardless of the amount of pleasure or pain. This theory suggest that the more desire-fulfilment in a life, the happier (Tenaglia, n.d.).
Objective List Theory. Objective List theories emphasized that happiness consists of a human life that achieves certain things from a list of worthwhile pursuits, such as career accomplishments, friendship, freedom from disease and pain, material comforts, civic spirit, beauty, education, love, knowledge, and good conscience (Tenaglia, n.d.).
Life satisfaction theory. Based on life satisfaction theories, happiness is a positive evaluation of the condition of our life by comparing actual conditions with our expectations (Rojas, 2003). In simple terms, happiness is being satisfied with what you have and what you are. Besides these four basic theories, there are still other conceptions of happiness.
Bottom-up Theory. In this perspective, well-being is the summation of the positive experiences in a person’s life (Compton, 2005). In other words, the more frequent the pleasant moments, the happier a person will be. For example, the level of happiness will be increased when people experiences a good marital quality, better jobs, safer neighbourhoods, and more income.
Income and Happiness
The effect of income on happiness was mix. Some previous empirical studies found the positive association between income and happiness (e.g. Easterlin, 2001; Gredtham and Johannesson, 2001; Subramanian et al., 2005; Tokuda and Inoguchi, 2008).
According to United State’s General Social Survey (GSS), those reporting themselves very happy ranges from 16% in the lowest income class to 44% in the highest class (Easterlin, 2001). This result is not surprising as having more money is often seen as a way to increase happiness (Compton, 2005). It is because increased income allows a person to buy a luxury car, a bigger house, take more vacation and so forth. In addition, higher income would allows us more comfortably meet our basic physical needs and protects us from unexpected expenses such as medical fees (Compton, 2005). For instance, if you have RM20 in your pocket, you can decide between steak and spaghetti for dinner, but if you have only RM2 you could only buy bread for dinner. Thus, additional wealth lets us satisfy additional needs, the more we satisfy the happier we are supposed to be.
Another possibility that wealth may have impact on happiness is that money brings an increase in status (Herper, 2004). Beyond this, researcher established that income provides greater freedom of action and consumption could allow for greater self-actualisation and more successful goal pursuits (Davies, n.d.).
Interestingly, studies have found out spending money on others will make us happier than spending it on ourself (Tierney, 2008). By tracking 16 workers before and after they received profit-sharing bonuses, the result showed that the workers who gave more of the money to others ended up happier than the ones who spent more of it on themselves.
In contrast, a large number of psychologists did not support with the statement “money can buy happiness”. Diener, Diener, & Diener (as cited in Compton, 2005) pointed out there is a strong relationship between income and satisfaction at lower income levels but an insignificant relationship at higher income levels. Result of this study showed a person or family’s income rises above the poverty level, then further increases in income do not significantly influence the level of happiness. Some studies even show a negative relationship between rising disposable income and happiness (Theodossiou, 1998; Winkelmann and Winkelmann, 1998; Lane, 2000). On the other hand, lottery winners showed the initial happiness after the big win but it does not last very long (Zuylen-Wood, 2012). Hence, they support the conventional wisdom of “money cannot buy happiness”.
These results can be explained by adaptation theory (Delichte, n.d.). According to adaptation level theory, it explained a rise in income initially provides a surge of satisfaction, but after people get used to it, they are not happier than before. In actual fact, people believe that they will be happy when they get new type of clothing, food, house or car. But once they have it for a time, they habituate and want one that is bigger or better.
In regard to the hedonic treadmill, although deriving initial satisfaction from a new purchase or salary increase, the emotional effects are either small or short lived. Brickman & Campell (as cited in Compton, 2005) explained hedonic treadmill as each financial goal that is met will lead to rising desires for one really needs to be happy. The more money we have, the more money we think we need to be happier. Diener & Biswas-Diener (as cited in Compton, 2005) reported 27% of the people who earned more than $100,000 per year said they could not afford everything they really need while 19% said they spent all their income on basic necessities.
Besides that, the idea of social comparison process also explains wealth cannot bring lasting happiness. Compton (2005) proposed that people tend to compare their lives to other people’s lives when they are asked to evaluate their income levels. Therefore, satisfaction with income depends upon whom they choose for the comparison. For instance, people are less satisfied with their income because they compare with those who are richer.
As a conclusion, having enough income to meet our basic needs and live above the poverty level is very important to happiness. But, more wealth does not mean to greater happiness because we quickly adapt to the new level of income.
Religious Faith and happiness
Surveys revealed happiness correlates significantly with religiosity (Lewis & Cruise, 2006; Taylor, Funk, & Craighill, 2006; Sharma & Malhotra, 2010; Tenaglia, n.d.). Survey done by Taylor, Funk, & Craighill (2006) revealed 43% of people who attend religious services weekly or more say they are happier than those who attend monthly or less (31%); or seldom or never (26%). This correlation between happiness and frequency of church attendance has been a reliable finding in the General Social Surveys taken over the years. The same pattern applies within all major religious sects (Taylor, Funk, & Craighill, 2006). For example, 38% of all Catholics who attend church weekly or more report being very happy, whilst just 28% of Catholics who attend church less often say they are very happy. Psychologists explained the level of happiness and life satisfaction will be increased when we have a sense of where we are going and what is important in life, and most people find this in religion. (Nielsen, n.d.)
Furthermore, Donahue & Benson’s study (as cited in Compton, 2005) have been consistent in finding that greater participation in religious activities is significantly related to higher well-being, lower rates of delinquency, alcoholism, drug abuse, and other social problems. It is because religion helps people feel closer to God and religious group tend to offer social support (Nielsen, n.d.). People are happier when they gained social support from the others who are supportive. In David Myers’s study (as cited in Compton, 2005) stated that religious people more often than non-religious people report feeling happy and satisfied with life. It shows that religious people are happy and contented with life (Tenaglia, n.d.).
Besides that, Lima & Putnam (2010) found that “closeness to God” correlates highly with happiness. Moreover, Sharma & Malhotra (2010) found that “devotional intensity” (frequent prayers and feeling close to God) was the strongest predictor of life satisfaction which is one of the components of happiness. Also, McCullough, 1995; Beit-Hallahmi & Argyle, 1997; Paloutzian, Richardson & Rambo, 1999’s studies (as cited in Compton, 2005) found that religious experiences can alter attitudes, goals, feelings, behaviours, and life meanings, and even increase positive emotion. For instance, studies report a correlation of .60 between self-reported happiness and having had a religious experience.
Moreover, a large number of studies established that religion is associated with mental health benefits (Chamberlain & Hall, 2004; Tenaglia, n.d.). Religion is that cushion and hope that provide people support in any case (Sharma & Malhotra, 2010). It strengthens the inner self and helps the people to overcome any problem with calmness (Myers, 2000; Abdel-Khalek, 2006).
On the contrary, religion cannot get rid of negative events or even increase positive events and therefore may not affect the level of happiness (Tenaglia, n.d.). Furthermore, Upson’s study (as cited in Perry, 2012) found that the positive effects of religion depend enormously on where individual live. Religious people may be happier than atheist, but only if the society they belong to values religion highly, which not all societies do (Perry, 2012).
According to Perry (2012), religion can certainly help people to be happier, but a peaceful, cooperative society can also help people to be happier even in the absence of religion. There is one study exposed that the religion make us happy is due to having close friends at church rather than the power of faith (Park, 2010). The survey found that 33% of those who attend religious services every week reported having comrades at church affirmed they were extremely satisfied with their lives. In addition, researcher claimed that it seems that the causation is from religion to happiness, because happy people are not expected to need religion (Tenaglia, n.d.).
Marriage and Happiness
The study of Tokuda and Inoguchi (2008) revealed marital status was one of the main contributors to happiness. Being married would often feel happier than the single divorce and widowed (Morawetz et al., 1977; Gredtham and Johannesson, 2001; Clark and Oswald, 2002; Taylor, Funk, & Craighill, 2006).
According to a social trend report, married people (43% very happy) are happier than unmarried (24%) and this result has been a consistent finding over many years and many surveys (Taylor, Funk, & Craighill, 2006). For both men and women, married person report greater happiness than person who have never been married or have been divorced or widowed (Compton, 2005). Diener’s study (as cited in Compton, 2005) found that the increase in men’s well-being is due to increases in happiness after marriage, while women’s increases are due to increase in life satisfaction.
This means that men’s increase in well-being after getting married may be due more to the resulting increase in positive emotions, while women’s increases may be more attributable to higher cognitive judgements relating to life being better than it was before getting married. Researcher stressed two reasons why marriage contributed to happiness. First, marriage provides a source of self-esteem to get away from stress in one’s life and job. Second, married people have a better chance of benefiting from a lifelong and empathetic intimate relationship, and suffer less from loneliness (Stutzer & Frey, 2006).
Though, the quality of the marriage is a significant factor influence the level of happiness (Compton, 2005). Marital satisfaction has been found to be positively associated with decision making among couples which consistently contributes to their happiness (Mojoyinola, 2007). Sternberg & Hojjat’s study (as cited in Compton, 2005) asserted marriages that involved positive interactions, emotional expressiveness, and sharing are associated with greater life satisfaction. Furthermore, those who were greatly in love with their partners describe themselves as happier (Mojoyinola, 2007).
Besides, Selim (2008) claimed that good health status levels had higher significant effects on happiness compare to poor and fair health status level. As people health status improves, their level of happiness become higher. Fittingly, marriage also seems to have positive benefits for physiological health (Compton, 2005). Studies have shown that married people are both consistently happier and healthier than single people. Positive marital relationships may actually be associated with increased longevity. Couples who interacted in positive ways showed lower blood pressure and lower physiological reactivity to negative reactions (Gottman & Notarius, 2000).
In contrary, those who are being divorced or widowed are associated with lower happiness than the never-married (Margolis & Myrskyla, 2009). It might be divorced and widowed experienced a loss and had to adapt to a new situation. Therefore, sorrow and uncertainty cause people more vulnerable to disease and suicidal thoughts.
Paykel’s study (as cited in Compton, 2005) also demonstrated that problems with intimate relationships are the factors that trigger depression. One study also found that the positive relationship between marriage and well-being has declined steadily in United States (Compton, 2005). Researchers believed that it was due to increased tensions surrounding work-family conflicts that come from new gender roles.
Survey. According to Spector (2008), research design was the basic structure of a scientific study which consisted of variety types of designs to acquire information from the research sample. Throughout this survey research, samples were selected to answer a predetermined set of questions provided in the questionnaire. By using the same systematic phrasing of questions, it was possible to summarize the point of views of all respondents concisely (Shaughnessy, B. Zechmeister, & S. Zechmeister, 2008). Therefore, the quantitative research was utilized and the method used to collect the data in this study will be the self report measure. This survey method comes along with several advantages such as time and cost saving and also determine the self-perception and reflection from the population. Single questionnaire (Subjective Happiness Scale) was used to collect data. The research design used for this study is cross sectional design which is description-describing the characteristics of a population or the differences among two or more populations at a particular time (Shaughnessy, Zechmeister, & Zechmeister, 2008). The purpose of applying this research design is due to the time constraint.
Participants and Locations
Participants were staff from University Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) Kampar, Perak. They are actually selected on the basis of their availability and willingness to complete the questionnaire distributed to them. There were 80 samples selected to complete the questionnaires. The reason of UTAR staff in Perak Campus was chose to conduct this research is because it holds the large number of staff in one campus.
The approach that researcher choose to assess the sample is convenience sampling where it does not guarantee that every element has the equal chance of being included in the survey and no way to estimate the probability of each elements being included in the sample (Shaughnessy, Zechmeister, & Zechmeister, 2008). Thus, convenient with random sampling is selected in order to select the respondents based on their availability and willingness to respond (Shaughnessy, Zechmeister, & Zechmeister, 2008).
Subjective Happiness Scale. In this study, the level of happiness was measured by using Subjective Happiness Scale. It is a 4-item measurement of global subjective happiness ( Lyubomirsky and Lepper, 1999). The first items ask respondents to characterise how happy they consider themselves (e.g., “In general, I consider myself”), second items require respondents to rate by comparing to their peers (e.g., “Compare to my peer, I consider myself”). The other two items provide briefly descriptions of happy and unhappy individual by choosing the extent to which each description characterizes them (e.g., “Some people are generally very happy. They enjoy life regardless of what is going on, getting the most out of everything. To what extent does this characterization describe you?”). All items were measured on a 7-point Likert scale. The range of scores on the Subjective Happiness Scale is from 1.0 to 7.0, with higher scores reflecting greater happiness. The final score is the average score of four items. Result showed that this questionnaire has high internal consistency ( Lyubomirsky and Lepper, 1999). The alpha’s ranged from 0.79 to 0.94 (M = 0.86). Test-retest reliability ranged from 0.55 to 0.90 (M= 0.72)³. Convergent validity ranged from 0.52 to 0.72 (M = 0.62). There are many research used Subjective Happiness Scale to measure the level of happiness (Hong & Son, 2009; Okun, Levy, Karoly, & Ruehlman, 2009; Tkach & Lyubomirsky, 2006).
Before the distribution of questionnaire, research proposal had been revised and approved by research supervisor, Ms. Chew Siew Wei. Some corrective adjustments had been done before collecting data from target participants. There were 80 samples selected to complete the questionnaires. The research was conducted on 16 July 2012 during the lecture hours which is from 11am to 2pm. Participants are provided with a short briefing about the survey and had been informed about their rights to terminate their participation anytime during the answering period without any negative consequences before they answered the questionnaire. Once they are cleared and agreed to participate, the Subjective Happiness Scale (SHS) was distributed to them and they are instructed to finish filling 4 items and demographic information in the questionnaire within 10 minutes. At the end of the research, all questionnaires were successfully collected from 80 participants with 100% response rate. Gratitude is given for their willingness to participate in this research.
Finally, the responses from the participants were grouped based on the level of income after collecting the questionnaires, tallied and assessed for answering the research questions in Chapter IV Findings and Analysis. The results had been analysed in Chapter V Discussion and Conclusion.
The Subjective Happiness Scale (SHS) score collected was hand-scored and the resulting score was processed according to statistical analysis. SPSS graduate Pack 19.0 for Windows was using to compute the information to produce both descriptive statistics and inferential statistics. Pearson Correlation Coefficient is used to measure the first and second research question in order to measure the relationship among level of income, religious faith, and the level of happiness. Whereas One-Way Analysis of Variance is used to measure the third research question, in order to measure the difference among single, married, divorced, and widowed and the level of happiness.
Findings and Analysis
Findings and analysis of this research study focused on two main parts: descriptive statistics and inferential statistics. For the descriptive statistics, the statistical figures of demographic variables were shown in frequency and percentage by graph. Then, for the inferential statistics, the statistical results of the independent variable (the levels of income, religious faith, marital status) and dependent variables (the level of happiness) had been computed with the appropriate statistical method such as One-Way Analysis of Variance and Pearson Correlation Coefficient.
Demographic Variables Analysis
Demographic variables of Age
The demographic results showed that 50 participants are from age group 18-35, which has the highest percentage (62.5%), while 17 participants are from age group 36-55, has the second highest percentage (21.3%), and lastly, 13 participants from age group ≥56 has the lowest percentage (16.3%).
Demographic variables of gender
There are 30 male participants accounted for 62.5% whereas 50 female participants are 37.5%.
Demographic variables of marital status
Marital status shows that there are 47 participants are single (58.8%) have highest percentage; 30 of them are married (37.5%); 2 of them are divorced (2.5%); and only one of them is widowed (1.3%).
Demographic variables of satisfaction with current marital status
There are 92.5% of participants (n=74) who are satisfied with their current marital status while only 7.5% of participants (n=6) are not satisfied with their current status.
Demographic variables of religion
For religion, results showed that 34 participants are Buddhism (42.5%) has the highest percentage among the others religion, whereas 25 of participants are Christian (31.3%) has the second percentage and 7 of them are Islam (8.8%) with the lowest percentage, free thinker or others religions are 14 participants accounted for 17.5%.
Demographic variables of strong religious faith
Meanwhile, those who reported themselves hold strong religious faiths are 58 participants (72.5%) whereas 22 participants (27.5%) said they are not.
Demographic variables of income
For income categories, the frequency of personal income is as follow: ≤RM2000 (9 participants); RM2001 – RM5000 (54 participants); RM5001 – RM10000 (10 participants); >RM10000 (7 participants).
Demographic variables of household income
Household income: ≤RM2000 (11 participants); RM2001 – RM5000 (41 participants); RM5001 – RM10000 (16 participants); >RM10000 (12 participants).
Demographic variables of satisfaction with current income
In addition, people who are satisfied with their current income are 37 participants (46.3%) while 43 participants (53.8%) are not satisfied with their current income.
Research Question 1: Is there any significant relationship between the level of income and the level of happiness among UTAR staff?
Pearson correlation between the level of income and the level of happiness
Income Pearson Correlation -0.055
Sig. (2-tailed) 0.630
The result of Pearson correlation showed that there is no significant relationship between level of income and the level of happiness, r(78, n=80) = -0.055, p<0.05. It means that changes in the level of income will have no effect on the level of happiness.
Research Question 2: Is there any significant relationship between religious faith and the level of happiness among UTAR staff?
Pearson correlation between the religious faith and the level of happiness
Religious Faith Pearson Correlation -0.152
Sig. (2-tailed) 0.178
The result of Pearson correlation showed that there is no significant relationship between religious faith and the level of happiness, r(78, n=80) = -0.152, p<0.05. This means religious faith will have no impact on happiness.
Research Question 3: Is there any significant difference among single, married, divorced, and widowed in the level of happiness?
One Way Analysis of Variance among single, married, divorced, and widowed in the level of happiness
Sum of Squares
HSD Post hoc Tukey Test
Mean and standard deviation for marital status
The results of One-Way Analysis of Variance showed that there was a significant difference among single, married, divorced, and widowed in level of happiness, F (3, 76) = 2.76, p < 0.05. The results of Post hoc Tukey Tests showed that there is a significant difference between single (M = 4.7713, SD = 0.7764) and widowed (M = 1.0000, SD = 0.0000), married (M = 4.9833, SD = 0.6946) and widowed (M = 1.0000, SD = 0.0000), and divorced (M = 4.6250, SD = 0.1768) and widowed (M = 1.0000, SD = 0.0000).
Discussion and Conclusion
Income and Level of Happiness
Firstly, the results showed that there was no significant relationship between the level of income and happiness. It means that the highest income group does not bring the higher level of happiness. Participants from RM5, 000-RM10, 000 income groups scored the highest in happiness level (M=5.15) whereas participants from above RM10, 000 have the lowest score (M=4.46). This result is consistent in Diener, Diener, & Diener (as cited in Compton, 2005) and Kahneman et al. (as cited in Cheah & Tang, 2011) findings, which showed a person or family’s income rises above the poverty level, then further increases in income do not significantly influence the level of happiness. Furthermore, researched done by Theodossiou, Winkelmann and Winkelmann (as cited in Cheah & Tang, 2011) also pointed out that there was no significant relationship between income and happiness. According to adaptation theory, it explained higher income provides a surge of satisfaction, but after people get used to it, they are not happier than before.
Religious Faith and Level of Happiness
Secondly, the results showed there was no significant relationship between religious faith and happiness. Either participant holds strong religious faith or not will have no effect on happiness. This is not consistent with the previous studies that showed religious people are more often than non-religious people to report feeling happy and satisfied with their life. It explained that happy people are not expected to need religion (Tenaglia, n.d.). Study has revealed a peaceful, cooperative society can also help people to be happier even in the absence of religion (Perry, 2012).
Marital status and Level of Happiness
Lastly, results showed that there is a significant difference among being single, married, divorced, and widowed. According to the result, widowed participants hold the lowest level of happiness compared to single, married, and divorced. This result is similar to the research done by Margolis & Myrskyla (2009), which revealed that those who are being divorced or widowed are associated with lower happiness than the never-married. It might be widowed people experienced a loss and had to adapt to a new situation. Sorrow and uncertainty may affect the level of happiness. According to Margolis & Myrskyla (2009), people who are neither greater in love nor being single are happier than those who gone through loss and grief upon the death of their spouse.
Although this study had an essential contribution in examined the relationship between the demographic factors and happiness among UTAR staff, there are several important limitations that had been found in this study.
Firstly, this study only involves a small amount of the UTAR staffs in Perak campus. The poor external validity due to the fact that all participants are coming from a same community and small sample size, (N=80) participated in this study, affecting the finding being unable to generalize to general population such as outside of the campus.
Secondly, this study was based solely on self-report survey method that comes along with its advantages, as well as the disadvantages. The method might subject to systematic errors, such as leniency or severity in rating, halo effects due to positive or negative slants, logical errors, and contrast errors (Shaughnessy, B. Zechmeister, & S. Zechmeister, 2009) which can seriously affect the reliability of the results.
Last but not least, income levels, religions, and marital status are the only independent variables that were assumed in this study to collaborate the results of previous research findings. However, there might be other variables that may affect the level of happiness. For instances, the effect of others socio-demographic factors or personality may affect a person happiness level.
As mentioned earlier, this study only emphasizes on the impact of income levels, marital status, and religion towards happiness. However, there is also another variable such as physical health status, personality, and educational level that may affect the happiness. Therefore, it is highly recommended that the future research should includes other variable to gain in depth understanding towards which factors eventually have more impact towards happiness.
Furthermore, the size of the sample was too small and it is better to have a larger sample or at least 500 participants to obtain a reliable result (Niles, 2006). On top of that, participants from this study were recruited in the same university which is not suitable to generalize the result to the external population. In order to overcome this limitation, future research should include participants from different fields of occupation and job responsibilities. Besides, stratified random sampling is highly recommended in order to overcome the limitation of inequity numbers of sample.
Future trends and Recommendations for Future Research
Given the lack of in-depth empirical studies on happiness in Malaysia, the purpose of this study is aimed to encourage further studies on happiness in order to promote happier society and provide better understanding on the conception of happiness. It is because human being can benefits from happiness such as longevity and have a good quality of life. The future study may target on a larger populations, so that the result of study can be generalized to all population.
In conclusion, this study reveals that income and religious faith were no significantly related to happiness. On top of that, we get several implications from the results. First, conventional wisdom of “money cannot buy happiness” has been proven to be accurate. We do not necessary strive for money throughout our whole life to increase happiness. Instead of impose heavy subsidisation for individuals’ cost of living, government is recommended to create and implement new policies that can directly improve individual’s happiness. For instance, officialise more public holidays for the labours, so that people can have more time to enjoy leisure activities and release stress.
Second, religion can surely help people to be happier, but researcher claimed that a peaceful, cooperative society can also help people to be happier even in the absence of religion. Since religion cannot eliminate negative events or increase positive events, it may not have impact on happiness. Nevertheless, we cannot denying that religion help us find a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives (Compton, 2005). Based on the research, a meaningful life provides a sense of control, creates ways to justify actions, and helps to foster a sense of self-worth (Compton, 2005).
Last but not least, people who never experienced loss and grief of the death of their partner or spouse are slightly happier than those experienced loss and grief of the death of their partner or spouse. Besides that, the quality of marriage is one of the main factors to determine whether we feel content, satisfied, and happy with our lives. Supportive relationship including emotional intimacy, trust, and greater role sharing seems to be associated with greater happiness level and satisfaction (Compton, 2005).
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