This year’s happiness study that we conducted on behalf of Wise Group revealed many interesting insights into what makes people happy. What is most strongly linked to happiness is our mental health: people who have a good mental health are much happier than those who have a poor mental health.
But what does it mean to be mentally healthy? It means an absence of mental illness, but not only that. The World Health Organization defines mental health a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. The boundary between mental health and illness is often fuzzy, and mental illness can range from temporary mental problems such as feeling anxious or stressed to mental illness such as depression.
The happiness study shows that the job plays an important role for our mental health. People who have a job are doing much better than people who do not have a job. 37 percent of people who are unemployed and are looking for a job say their mental health is not good; among people who work the equivalent number 17 percent. Of course, mental illness can make it difficult to work and hence lead to unemployment. This may explain part of the relationship; but a job that we enjoy also contributes to our well-being. A job fulfills important social functions (you meet other people), gives us self-confidence, and forms part of our identity (you notice that every time you meet a new person and immediately asks what s/he works with).
It is not only important to have a job. It is also important to have fun at work, to do something that is meaningful, to be satisfied with what your do and to be able to develop in your work. 94 percent of those who have fun at work say they have a good mental health; among those who do not have fun at work only 51 percent have a good mental health.
People who do not have a good mental health are most affected by work-related factors like (not) feeling respected by their boss or (not) haveing a balance between work and leisure.
In the happiness study there are several tips on what employers can do to increase the chances that employees feel good. Among other things, it is important to show respect for one’s employees, ensure that employees have a sustainable approach to work and be observant of small signs of mental illness.
Are you curious to learn more? The entire study can be found here: Wise Happiness 2013