Happiness Is Being An Aging Liberal

A friend (who also happens to be my most dedicated commentator) sent me a link to a new study on what makes us happy. Now, typically I approach such things with a bit of skepticism. It is, after all, common to see studies touting sample sizes of mere handfuls or studies lasting for very short lengths of time. Not this one, however! This study followed 268 men for seventy-five freaking years. That’s pretty damn impressive, in and of itself. Another impressive fact, aside from the length of the study, was the breadth of it:

. . . measuring an astonishing range of psychological, anthropological, and physical traits—from personality type to IQ to drinking habits to family relationships to “hanging length of his scrotum”—in an effort to determine what factors contribute most strongly to human flourishing.

Now that is some thorough research. I’ve honestly never wondered whether the “hanging length of the scrotum” might contribute, positively or negatively, to one’s level of happiness.

Some of the data proves what common sense already dictated: drinking is bad for your happiness, smoking kills you. Nice to have a scientific confirmation for these things, but nothing really earthshaking yet. Don’t worry, we’ll get to that bit soon.

It was interesting to me that “there was no significant difference in maximum income earned by men with IQs in the 110–115 range and men with IQs higher than 150.” It seems a little bit counter-intuitive, but if I might speculate, perhaps this is because the 110-115 range is the IQ most likely to have a decently paying job while individuals in the 150+ range are more likely to pursue intellectually stimulating professions that offer only comparable or inferior salaries. Like I said, this is speculation on my part; the study itself indicates that it is a higher number of “warm relationships” rather than IQ that contributes more towards high income and personal happiness.

For me, here’s the statistic that I found both the most interesting and also the most personally satisfying:

Aging liberals have more sex. Political ideology had no bearing on life satisfaction—but the most-conservative men ceased sexual relations at an average age of 68, while the most-liberal men had active sex lives into their 80s. “I have consulted urologists about this,” Vaillant writes. “They have no idea why it might be so.”

So while my liberal ideology won’t make me more satisfied with my life, it will mean I’ll likely have more sex. And while that might not lead to happiness on its own, I certainly can’t imagine where it’s going to hurt my chances at happiness. I don’t know about you, but this fact makes me feel a certain smug sense of satisfaction and vindication, which is not to say that I felt my beliefs needed vindication. It’s just one of those things.

If you’d like to find out the true cause of happiness, since it’s not a higher IQ or more sex, check out the article.