Are we happy and why?

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Abstract

This research investigated the hypothesis that there is no difference between Australians and international students as far as the causes of happiness are concerned.

For the study, a questionnaire consisting of 12 questions about happiness and life satisfaction was created. A survey was conducted among 25 female and 25 male students to solicit the responses of a sample group of 50 international students in Navitas Academic English classes. Their responses were recorded, analysed and compared with previous happiness studies carried out in Australia.

The report’s findings revealed that students were generally happy with their lives and family relationships were the main cause of happiness. The majority of students were very happy with their family relationships.

The study supports the assumption that causes of happiness are the same for most people and they experience happiness in the same way regardless of their nationality.

Introduction

The questions of whether people are happy and what makes them happy with their lives seem to be a deeply individual inquiry. However, in recent years, the question of happiness and life satisfaction has been considered in a much broader societal context (Vinson & Ericson, 2012). Notions of happiness and life satisfaction are concerned with a wide range of disciplines, including economics, psychology, sociology, neuroscience and public policy. Healey brings out that psychologists often distinguish between the two concepts, with happiness relating to the more temporal concept of positive affect (i.e. positive mood, feelings of pleasure, joy etc.) and life satisfaction constituting the more cognitive concept of an individual’s appraisal to life satisfaction overall, the quality of life. Life satisfaction and happiness both are classified as subjective wellbeing that relates to how people feel about their lives (2008). Researches investigating happiness have found the following factors enhance a person’s wellbeing: happy intimate relationship with a partner, network of close friends, enjoyable and fulfilling career, enough money, regular exercising, nutritional diet, sufficient sleep, spiritual or religious beliefs, hobbies and leisure pursuits, healthy self-esteem, optimistic outlook, realistic and achievable goals, sense of purpose and meaning, a sense of belonging, the ability to adapt to change and living in a fair and democratic society (Healey, 2008). Happiness has become increasingly more studied in the last decade. During the past 10 years researches have analysed happiness in relations to earnings, education, economic growth, health, income inequality and human development index (Mengeloja & Hirvonen, n.d.) but happiness has been researched also in relation to relationships, community and friends, health, money and religion. The quality of a person’s close relationships is one factor that most researches agree as a fairly strong association with high levels of subjective wellbeing. People need love, companionship and agreeable engagements to flourish (Healey, 2008). According to Veenhoven (1991), Ferrer-i-carbonell and Frijters (2004), Guilbert and Paul (2009), previous international studies have found that there are many factors that can impact upon individual happiness. In general, people living in an economically prosperous country where freedom and democracy are respected, who have a good relationship with family and friends and are mentally and physically healthy, are much happier than those who are not (cited in Cassels, 2010, p.10) Both, Australian Unity and Deakin University (n.d.) as well as Life Satisfaction and Happiness study reports emphasise family relationships and marital status as key determinants of happiness for Australians (2012). Finally, as can be seen from previous study that was conducted on university students in Finland and Australia, good social relationships are centrally important determinants of life satisfaction,...
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