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Does a higher level of education increase happiness?

Education can provide a better understanding of the world. Does education and its effects increase likeliness of being happier? I am speaking particularly of standard post-high school education.

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    Mar 8 2014: It doesn't. Happiness has nothing to do with being well educated, or haviing an abundance of pleasure or having a fat bank account.
    Happiness has nothing to do with being well informed or being sophisticated.
    Happiness has more to do with appreciating what one has as one persists in search of what he/she desires.
    We've seen happy prisoners and unhappy billionnaires. It's all about attitude; and it is a choice.

    I will be giving a TEDx talk on the theme "In Pursuit of Happiness" next month. Please watch out for the video.
    • Mar 10 2014: Science disagrees with you:
      Murrell SA, Salsman NL. Meeks S. 2003. Educational attainment, positive psychological mediators, and resources for health and vitality in older adults. J Aging Health. 15:591-615.

      Kubzansky LD1, Berkman LF, Glass TA, Seeman TE. 1998. Is educational attainment associated with shared determinants of health in the elderly? Findings from the MacArthur Studies of Successful Aging. Psychosom Med. 60:578-85.
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        Mar 10 2014: And on this one, I disagree with science.
        • Mar 10 2014: So let's see your evidence? What's your sample size? What specific methods did you employ? Or are you just making things up like a flat-earther or climate-denier?
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          Mar 10 2014: giving an opinion is providing evidence of that opinion, Bryan. do you understand the concept behind TED conversations..? of opinion?

          oh, and sample size? lol. crack me up.

          "but we did the survey in a temperature controlled room and all 25 random participants were asked the same question in the same tone so now all we do is we simply have to apply our findings to everyone on the planet".
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        Mar 10 2014: Science is as limited as humanity. The more we know, the more we know that we dont know much.
        Issues of happiness, love, truth and ethics are not in the domain of science.
        • Mar 10 2014: In other words, you're a flat-earther. You just blindly say "nonononononononono" and stop up your ears like any other extremist.
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          Mar 26 2014: The scientific method is probably the most profound human invention so far.

          The more we know the more we know. Even knowing there is more we don't know is an achievement IMO,

          Science, evidence, has a rule in understanding love, truth, ethics, and happiness.

          If there is evidence better educated people are more happy than less educated people on average, you can ignore that if you please, but it may indicate you are operating under some false assumptions, and may limit your understanding, and reduce the value of your conclusions.

          Seems like you are missing out on a huge range of scientific insights on happiness.
        • Apr 4 2014: but they are studied none the less.
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        Mar 10 2014: Can you provide links to the first papers?
        re: the first paper:
        What principles are "positive psychology based on?
        Re: the second:
        This research does not directly address causation of happiness, but rather association.

        "Low levels of education were associated with poorer psychological function (less mastery, efficacy, happiness), less optimal health behaviors (increased tobacco consumption and decreased levels of physical activity), poorer biological conditions (decreased pulmonary function, increased body mass index and waist-to-hip ratio), and larger social networks (increased number of contacts, decreased negative support). Several factors (alcohol consumption, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol) were nonlinearly related to educational attainment."
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        Mar 11 2014: The name-calling is not neccessary. I still dont agree with science. Emotions are real and science cant measure or quantify it.
        You need to snap back to the reality of life here on earth: Science and technology is not the cure-all drug.
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      Mar 11 2014: One of the dilemmas here is that is scientific investigation is required to demonstrate something.
      In this case the Nobel Prize winning neuroscientist Daniel Kahneman, who also addressing the question of happiness in his TEDTalk, has found that money does afford us with a degree of happiness.
      Here is the research:

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        Mar 11 2014: Thanks Theodore. I agree with you and with the learned Nobel Prize winner.
        I'm just detailed enough to differentiate between 'Happiness' and 'A degree of happiness'.
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      Mar 11 2014: ...and good luck with you TEDx talk. It is a great opportunity to be a speaker at such an event.
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      Mar 13 2014: Feyisayo,

      I'm inclined to agree with Mr. Maloney. How many unhappy billionaires? How many happy prisoners? How many unhappy educated people? How many happy uneducated people?

      How can one measure happiness? Just because someone looks happy doesn't mean he/she is really happy. Many people who seem to be happy are in reality miserable.

      “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
      ― Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience and Othe Essays


      "Let me tell you something. There's no nobility in poverty. I've been a poor man, and I've been a rich man. And I choose rich every f*****g time." Jordan Belfort - The Wolf of Wall Street


      I've known ignorance and poverty myself. It's not fun!
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        Mar 13 2014: There is no nobility in poverty. I've never been poor; but I would be happier with a multimillion dollar movie deal.
        Money is good.

        I think the ignorant folks could be happy; since they dont think too much. There's a thin line between thinking too much and worrying too much. And it's quite easy to cross that line.
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          Mar 26 2014: With this, I agree most passionately. Ignorance is bliss, after all!

          I am an over-thinker and highly inquisitive. Currently, I am the unhappiest I've ever been. I am being pushed to get an education, yet I am tormented by the thought of returning to school and being part of a system that I so fundamentally oppose. I want to be different and achieve things that others perceive as unrealistic (simply because they are not 'typical'). Yet, I am pushed to be just like everyone else: Get an education, find a job with the degree, make enough money to support my and my spouse's livelihood and live "happily ever after".

          It's enough pressure to make me insane! Which I think proves that I've crossed from "thinking" to "worrying". I feel that the people around me have facilitated this worry, though. I could be a "happy thinker" if everyone else around me didn't think I was some sort of "worrisome dreamer".
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        Mar 26 2014: Chey Brown, Ignorance would have been bliss if selfishness were a virtue; but humanity needs knowledge, and the happiness of an ignorant fellow hardly benefits humanity.
        It is better to have the happiness of an educated and enlightened human being.
        Now, benefitting human beings with one's knowledge is not like some grand quest; but a scientist that discovers the cure for cancer is to be preferred than an ignorant happy folk who does nothing but eat, fart, smokes weed and gets fat.

        You, Chey Brown, are the architect of your unhappiness. Going to school (the traditional system) is not education in the holistic sense of it; it is just a system that provides you with the discipline and community of intellectuals. Education is a personal responsibility, and it is a life-long pursuit. The fact that you went to a university does not mean you should be stuck in their ways.

        I'm reading about Martha Nussbaum, who was able to give unique and profound insights to philosophy, despite going through the traditional school system.

        For happiness, for education, the choice is yours. Find a way or give excuses.
    • Mar 27 2014: I believe there must be a balance between having an education that will make you earn enough money so that you don't have to worry about bills and be depressed. The opposite is true too, having too much money can cause one to be busy enough that they lose their connection to their surroundings that make life worth living.

      The opinions maybe different to minority of others because they are able to connect themselves to the positive parts in life and smile.
    • Apr 2 2014: Feyisavo:

      You must be very smart and well educated. I understand your point of view.

      However for a ordinary person bank account eliminates lot of events that may make him unhappy. Poor man may not be able to take his family out for dinner to a good restaurant or buy wife a decent gift or send a son to our of state University. These issues causes unhappiness that is felt. One wishes one is able to do those things. Little people (not used as insult but to make a point) have little pleasures and more often that can be had for better finances/

      I will wait to hear you speak. Thank you.
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    Mar 18 2014: I would say happiness is related to the educational level of the society that one is likely to live in, and how stable and sustainable it is.

    If I lived in a society of hunter/gatherers, then I would be very happy only training myself to the level of hunter/gatherer. There would be no need for me to educate myself beyond that point. Hunter/gatherer lifestyles are stable, in tune with it's surroundings and therefore less subject to big changes.

    In a society of highly educated people, it would be necessary for me to educate myself as near as I can get, to that perceived level in order to be happy. The stability of such a society would depend on my ability to keep my knowledge and ways of thinking continuously up to date.

    Happiness is also affected by what we value as 'achievement'. The value markers we put on certain types of educational achievement have become distorted and inappropriate for today's changing society - especially one that is undeniably in transit from one epoch to another. That is to say, we are busy educating ourselves to perpetuate a past society rather than to envision a future one.

    If, on the cusp of colossal societal and environmental change, our education system stagnates in conservatism, happiness would be progressively less possible.
  • Mar 7 2014: Yes and no. You have more knowledge but more questions that keep you up at night.
    • Mar 7 2014: Hi Dear wayne,I don't think more questions isn't a good thing:)
      • Mar 9 2014: These questions have no easy answer - keeps you up at night - 8>))
        • Mar 14 2014: Hi Dear wayne,LOL,if so,you are gonna be a great thinker soon,or already?Anyhow I think it isn't good for health.I strongly recommend'meditation' to you,it helps you thinking and as well as sleep soundly.
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    Mar 8 2014: Tai, There are those who see education as a goal and others who see it as a journey. I know PHd's who are great people and some that are snobs and not very nice.

    If we had a island where no one had a formal education .... what would be the percentage of happy VS unhappy.

    Would that percentage be comparable to the Boston area where many colleges and universities exist?

    Those who accept education as a journey are more likely to be happy than those who achieved the GOAL of being educated.

    Just sayin .....

    Be well. Bob.
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      Apr 2 2014: i agree completely , education is a journey not the end : )
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    Mar 7 2014: It depends upon the people's way of thinking , isn't it ?? how dangerous is electricity , aren't we using it ? in fact we cannot live without it .. how are we using that without getting hurt ? just because of Education . Getting Higher level of Education can surely get happiness !! no doubt in that according to me , but we must use the way in which it must be used ! A Highly Talented person is like a candle , like the light of the candle his talent and education will give light to others life ; he can ignite the lives of many , showing the right path . who hates to solve the most typical problem in Mathematics and Physics ? i agree , now a days due to lack of wisdom , people are misusing Education but how can we say this is only because of getting higher education ? Education and Knowledge in any righteous form is really the only key to happiness . It fills one with confidence and strong will . even though one lose all his wealth and property , if he is educated ,he won't commit suicide for that , he will make a new start as he possess something ( i.e., knowledge) which cannot be stolen or destructed ! due to the lack of moral content and proper guidance people are unable to use their education fruitfully otherwise we would be visiting the other planets like other countries by now : ) this is not something to insult someone's views , it's just my view !
  • Mar 16 2014: Tai, your question caused a real explosion, like a bomb! It seems to me that we need to talk about that because people split up in two different categories. Those who think that learning and studying enrich human soul and mind, and other who believe that happiness is something precious which has nothing to do with knowledge. Actually, I am inclined to believe they are both right. Study derives from "studium", which means love, passion, in the sense of devoted commitment. As a matter of fact this, indeed, may produce happiness somehow. On the other hand, it goes without saying that each of us knows people with lower education who are happy. The pivotal point is : when it comes to happiness why to struggle with finding a formula? Couldn't we try to encompass the other? If we are confident of what makes us happy why not to notice what makes other people happy and start to gain a benificial outcome from that?
  • Mar 12 2014: The question is very broad to provide an accurate answer, in my opinion. The assumption of the question is that "higher levels of education = happier people". That component alone may or may not be true. There are a wide variety of under-lying factors to consider.

    For example, what are you doing with the education? Are you a PhD who works as a custodian who is happy to be a custodian? Income level tends to be higher in an educated population, which means more stable folks who could be happier. Is it only the education that makes you happier? What other factors need to be considered in this equation? Are you working in your field of study for example? If you aren't does that mean your education failed you or helped you to be happy if you like your job?

    To narrow happiness simply to education level itself is a difficult case to make. Not impossible, but difficult to put that as the only indicator of happiness in the individual.

    My own opinion, it definitely helps.
  • Mar 7 2014: With adequate access to basic necessities, I see relationships as the most important part of the equation. Unfortunately, society makes it difficult to be satisfied with less ambitious education goals? The balance is different for everyone.
    • Mar 9 2014: I agree regarding relationships, Tai. It is much more difficult to maintain relationships with those who cannot communicate at the same intellectual level. Of course, the same could be said about relationship challenges with those who are more open or closely guarded.
  • Mar 7 2014: Hi Dear Tai,I deem so.But I would like to mention some words about education what I think.I think here higher level of education it surely doesn't mean how many years you have studied at school or what degrees you got from school.I think higher levely of education means those people who can keep on thinking critical,reading,listening,watching,observing...So obviously what you meant particularly of standard post-post high school education you meant.I don't think that works for more happiness.
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    Mar 7 2014: People need to make the decisions that suit them, but higher education typically gives you some tools for better understanding the world, for more effective life-long learning, and for greater career flexibility, aside from the intrinsic pleasure of learning with peers and in connection with scholars and people doing research at the cutting edge of their fields.

    Most but not all people find fulfillment in rising to challenges and being prompted to think about ideas in the broader ways higher education promotes.

    It is really important, I think, to try to choose a university or college that suits you in the sense of supporting your growth in the areas that interest you.
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    Apr 3 2014: the only true happiness in life lies in knowledge
    the more understanding you have of yourself and of the world the more joy your bound to gain:)
  • Apr 3 2014: Happiness increases with faith, peace of mind, and contentment with what one is given in life. Also real happiness is a state of the mind and the spirit that can't be changed. Happy people are the ones who are able to smile even under pressure and thank God for everything happening in their lives. Education can help people better adapt to life, find better jobs (theoretically) and have a higher social status. But even if a person has this all but can't appreciate it, he will never be happy.
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    Apr 2 2014: of course , attitude is what matters but we define attitude through Education , isn't it ? even to appreciate what one has as one persists in search of what he/she desires one must be educated, right ? importantly, education is not only about learning a set of particular subjects or books , it's about learning new things also. if the human race had not possessed the desire of knowledge , today we would not be able to live a life like this , we would be hunting in the wild like the early men. We've seen prisoners because of lack of education, if they know that they are committing a mistake they won't do it, who cares if a prisoner is happy or sad ? he is a person who did hurt the other, right ? .. Getting educated is not only meant for earning a number of degrees and PhD's or for having a fat bank account or being a billionaire , it's more than that. education is that which brought a revolution in the way of thinking and standard of living of mankind. let's say, A person, who is living happily is suffering from cancer unfortunately then should he die happily if he possess a very positive attitude and being uneducated or live happily by taking treatment if he possess education. one can be surely happy without education only when one has the support and guidance of the educated. here, education is not an opposite word of attitude ! to say that the one having a better attitude has nothing to do with education for happiness. education is a tree which possess the roots of positive attitude , gives the knowledge in the form of shade to every one who approach it , And the fruits and flowers which resemble the strength to live better with happiness... what i want to say is education strengthens our attitude , which make us live more happier than before. without education the people live their whole life in the illusion of being happy which is named as attitude by a few ..
  • Apr 2 2014: All expansion of horizons of mind increases potential of happiness; It increases our ability to resolve puzzles. A person goes to drug store and know what medicine will solve his headache or stomach acid is better off than one who has no idea what will resolve his stomach ache.

    However to answer a question with higher level of formal education is complicated. Zimmerman of Facebook and Steve Jobs can have a greater happiness even though they dropped out from formal educational process compared to many Harvard graduates with honor/
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    Mar 27 2014: I think a stronger social life and wider variety in activities in life increases happiness in life
  • Mar 27 2014: I don't think so, happiness of each person is not different, it belong to the expectation of person. So, you more study more up higher level, you will hope your life more richer, you dream much more, you hope life level up. You only get a happy really when you know exactly what you want
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    Mar 25 2014: It doesn't. I think happiness has nothing to do with the level of education. Nowadays I'm a postgraduate student in a university of Qingdao, I feel very happy because I make my dream come true. When I was a undergraduate student in a college of Beijing, I aimed to continue my study at a high level. So when I admitted
    into this university, I was so happy I got what I want. I think happiness concern with desire in our life, if you are very satisfied with your life, you are happy.
  • Mar 24 2014: I agree with those who've answered that happiness is a state of mind - it is not necessarily inherent in education. I think the happiness or not that is derived from education comes from two facets:
    1) The tone or message of the education, be it optimistic/positive or pessimistic/negative. I think this matter of tone has an overwhelming effect on how the education is perceived, which is one of the reasons I love TED so much - discussions are often so optimistic in presenting solutions that they provide a strong counter to the overwhelmingly negative popular media.
    2) The additional benefits derived from being educated, being security, a sense of understanding the world, and improvement of one's position in society. This is a strong motivator for me personally, but I think it eventually has diminishing returns. Once a sufficient level of security and status are achieved, further achievements don't bring us the same additional happiness (as has been noted in several TED talks - I'll have to add some citations).

    It would seem that, yes or no, whether or not education makes you happy depends on what you stand to gain from it relative to your current position.
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    Mar 18 2014: This may seem counter intuitive, however I think there is a possibility that the opposite may occur more often.

    I am certainly not a leading authority on this, but in my experience I find that the happiest people I know are often NOT well educated. My little theory is quite simple, ignorance is bliss! As long as life is not giving you a rough time it can be nice for some people to keep things simple, do your day job, come home to your humble abode, watch and maybe in speculate on some news, have some food etc and do it all again the next day!

    Of course one mould certainly does not fit all, and to assume simplicity equals happiness would be foolish. But I certainly would not assume that a good education can translate into happiness, at the very best I would assert there may be an indirect link in that the fruits of a good education can help improve ones lot at finding whatever helps to give them happiness...
  • Mar 10 2014: Doesn't this run contrary to "ignorance is bliss"?
  • Mar 9 2014: I've seen suggestions that the happiest people are the stupidest - who don't know the awful truth ...

    (have you even seen a group of mongoloid/Down's Syndrome folk on a group tour - the widest smiles, etc.)

    another analogy - buddhist - frustration is the gap between expectations and reality - if you drop the gap (as I did via meditation) and have no expectations, then anything can be delightful - while people around me are whingeing and complaining - why aren't things the way I want !? - I simply observe and delight in a perfect fallen leaf, a new flower, in the play of sunlight through the window, in the gentle breeze at perfect temperature wafting

    happiness as a sensory pleasure will only ever be momentary as tastebuds, etc. are quickly satiated or habituated and no longer enjoyed - happiness as a lingering contentment with your life choices - can abide - and the longest lasting happiness tends to come from - helping others

    I tend to say - focus on self is a downward spiral to depression - focus on helping others is an upward spiral to joy - choose - wisely ...
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    Mar 8 2014: Generally speaking, any knowledge should be aimed first of all for knowing better and doing better//good. Whether any knowledge makes its knower happier, depends upon how the knower interprets and uses that knowledge. As we see today and seen in the past, when knowledge is gained mainly for selfish purposes like competition, getting rich, gaining power, accumulating excessive materialistic possessions, knowing more than others, knowing just because others want to know and so on, the education or knowledge will not increase happiness or it will just give a temporary feeling of happiness.
  • Mar 7 2014: I believe higher education does not directly correlate to happiness. First of all with more knowledge you have more awareness of the troubles of the world and the higher your education goes I feel the more you will feel pressured to change those problems in the world. Also I feel like happiness is more involved in satisfaction with life, not the amount of knowledge you gain.
    • Mar 10 2014: Science disagrees with you:
      Murrell SA, Salsman NL. Meeks S. 2003. Educational attainment, positive psychological mediators, and resources for health and vitality in older adults. J Aging Health. 15:591-615.

      Kubzansky LD1, Berkman LF, Glass TA, Seeman TE. 1998. Is educational attainment associated with shared determinants of health in the elderly? Findings from the MacArthur Studies of Successful Aging. Psychosom Med. 60:578-85.
  • Mar 7 2014: Yes.
    Murrell SA, Salsman NL. Meeks S. 2003. Educational attainment, positive psychological mediators, and resources for health and vitality in older adults. J Aging Health. 15:591-615.

    Kubzansky LD1, Berkman LF, Glass TA, Seeman TE. 1998. Is educational attainment associated with shared determinants of health in the elderly? Findings from the MacArthur Studies of Successful Aging. Psychosom Med. 60:578-85.
  • Mar 5 2014: I believe that the status of being a college graduate can provide psychological benefits among other things. I am open for discussion.
  • Apr 6 2014: A lot of people here have given some silly answers and then started arguments with each other about science and nature and whatnot.

    Everyone has their own feelings, ideas, emotions, their own universe. I find that the more educated I am, the happier I am. And I don't mean "education" as in "formal education", like degrees. I mean education as in being able to:

    Read Adam Smith and Karl Marx and Milton Friedman and contrast their ideas as impartially as possible, then choosing what economic policies you would enact if you were Obama or George Bush.

    Reading the Holy Books of Christianity, Islam and Hinduism and then thinking about the Philosophy of Religion, and which is the most advanced and realistic. Or which one you feel most strongly about (positively or negatively).

    Learning maths proofs from the ground up, training yourself to solve complex problems that don't involve much technical knowledge but a lot of thinking. Then go about learning the technical stuff.

    Analyse whether doctors are really qualified to do their job, and make the decisions they make about others' lives, and whether they deserve all the praise they get in society. It's not about whether they working hard (100 hours a week or whatever), it's about whether they are making diagnoses, whether they are performing the right clinical studies. Do they have the education to respond to the effects of disease in the human body?

    These are a small fraction of the many things I think about on a daily basis. I read, read, and read some more. I hate studying stuff that doesn't interest me. But I find that the more I hear about something, the more I want to learn it. When I learn what Einstein accomplished, I want to accomplish something on THAT level.

    That is what makes me happy. The ambition to learn, to accomplish. I do not see how someone can not attain happiness through education. To put it better, the alternative to being educated is remaining ignorant: a black hole of darkness and despair.
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    Apr 6 2014: As someone who is currently doing an MBA degree, I am confident it does not. When I look at people who have not studied anything after high school, the majority seem happy indeed. This was only a recent realization for me that came from reflecting deeply upon my reasons for this MBA.

    Degrees or technical knowledge allow you to become more specalised in your work, therefore increase your value and income, but it has no relationship to happiness. Happiness is much more related to how you feel about yourself and the people (family, friends) around you. It's very difficult to give love or affection to your work colleagues. Remember that.
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    Apr 6 2014: I think it increases the illusion of happiness because of the promise of wealth which attributes to our idea of what it means to be happy. I think it has to do with classism. We've come to believe that higher level education somehow will benefit us in the long run and eventually lead us to a great job and a great life, yet the truth is far from that. The employment rate amongst graduates is still low and a large number of people end up working for minimum wage, regardless of their educational background. So it depends on your definition of happiness I suppose, which is extremely subjective. The best way to increase happiness is to learn through experiences and getting to know what you want for yourself, which can be partially aided through higher education but is primarily achieved by simply living life according to your own values, not that of any institution.
  • Apr 5 2014: It doesn't neccesarily have to increase the happiness. Education typically increases general knowledge about life, other people, promotes further development. According to Kruger-Dunning effect the higher your competences, the more reservations you have about your knowledge. This may contribute to unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Also, the more you develop, the more own shortcomings you see. Being reflective helps to see things from a broader perspective. It is not without reason that people eagerly listen to optimists but tend to trust pessimists.
  • Apr 4 2014: I agree with Feyisayo Anjorin, happiness is largely related to attitude and often a result of personal desires, and the pursuit of.

    In regards to education: it is as many great thinkers have said before, focus on your interests & passions and you will gain a comprehensive and "high level" of education in such. I do not believe however that you need to complete a particular course of education. To put your efforts into what you enjoy and have drive for will naturally pay off as education and happiness.

    Education in itself should be taken as a diverse and generalised term in my opinion. It should not be constrained to academia but should cover a wide variety of skills and wisdom.

    A wise man may not know how to read or count, but a man with high intellect may not be wise at all.