Ruut Veenhoven
Conditions of Happiness, Kluwer Academic, 1984, Dordrecht/Boston.

Abstract Chapter 7

Many investigations inspected whether happy people are different from unhappy people. Various characteristics were considered, some of which indeed appeared more frequently among the former than among the latter. The abundant findings can be grouped in six main categories.

Personal resources
Happy people appeared relatively well endowed with several characteristics that are generally helpful in coping with the problems of life.

Happy persons appeared to distinguish themselves from the unhappy by a greater activity level. They were not only more involved in various tasks, but also felt more energetic. Their greater activity was not paralleled by more complaints about time-pressure. It has not been established to what extent these differences are artefactual. However, there is experimental evidence that suggests that they are at least partly due to the effects of happiness, positive affect enhancing activity and negative affect slowing it down. Possibly high activity can also add to a greater appreciation of life, among other things by fostering chances in the realms of work and intimate relations. As yet there is no independent evidence for such effects.

Richness of mental life
Studies among intellectuals in western nations do not suggest that the happy enjoy more differentiated affective experiences that the unhappy, nor that they perceive outward reality more completely or articulately. At best there are indications that happy people are somewhat more independent in their appraisals. It is not certain that these findings will stand tests for spuriousness and curvilinearity.

Happiness was also found to be related to some traits that have less evident consequences for success in coping. Most investigations on this matter were performed in western nations; more than half concern American students.

Life style
Contrary to the suggestions of some ascetic moralists, happy people do not distinguish themselves from the unhappy by living more 'laboriously' or more 'soberly'. They were shown to have an open eye for pleasures and appeared in fact to be more involved in various leisure activities; in particular in outdoor entertainments and sports.
    No great differences in consumption patterns appeared either; at least not insofar as eating habits, smoking or drinking are concerned. One investigation among American students in 1970 found drug users (marijuana, amphetamines, barbiturates) less 'satisfied' with life relatively, but not less 'cheerful'.
Investigations on differences in sleeping habits found no significant differences. These findings do not imply that lifestyles are entirely irrelevant to happiness. The data cover only a few lifestyle variables in a few populations and it is not certain that they will stand up to tests for spuriousness or curvilinearity.

Investigations in various nations showed the aspirations and goals of happy people to center on matters of 'character', 'family', 'health' and 'pleasure'. Happy people also appeared relatively concerned about matters of 'value' and solution of 'social problems'. On the other hand, a relatively great number of unhappy people reached out for 'change'; in particular for improvement of their 'economic situation'. These differences can not yet be relied upon, as they have not been sufficiently checked. If tenable they may mean that happy people tend to select other aims than the unhappy. They may also mean that some aims are more rewarding than others, e.g. because they are better 'attainable', or correspond more closely with 'real needs'. Apart from the desire for 'change' it is largely unclear what effects are actually involved in these differences.

Some investigations in western nations inspected whether happy people hold different convictions than unhappy ones. The few differences they found were mostly small and variable across time and social categories.

While happiness is the appreciation of life-as-a-whole, it is obviously related to the appreciation of various aspects of life. However, it is not equally strongly related to all of them. In Western nations at least, happiness appeared most closely linked to 'satisfaction with intimate relations', to 'satisfaction with income' and to 'satisfaction with oneself'. It was generally somewhat less closely linked to 'satisfaction with leisure', to 'satisfaction with health'. Smallest of all appeared its links to 'satisfaction with one's living environment' and 'satisfaction with one's country'. This hierarchy is not wholly identical in all social categories. In the Netherlands it has changed through time; 'satisfaction with marriage' having become an increasingly prominent predictor of happiness during the post-war decades. As yet it is not fully clear why happiness is not equally closely linked to satisfaction with all aspects of life.