Does Happiness = Acceptance? The Key Question for Today's Physician

Greg A. Hood, MD

Disclosures

December 02, 2015

In This Article

Is the "U" Already an "L"?

New research, published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, may underscore that happiness is the consequence of that which matters, not the genesis itself. This study,[4] which analyzed a time frame after the data for the 2010 Economist article was completed, appears to demonstrate that the "U-bend" has already been effectively crushed. " Among adults, the previously established positive correlation between age and happiness has dwindled, disappearing by the early 2010s." Researchers went on to say, "Mixed-effects analyses primarily demonstrated time period rather than generational effects." This was generally attributed to adults realizing that their life dreams weren't going to be attained. Data showed that 38% of adults rated themselves as "very happy" in the early 1970s, down to 32% in the early 2010s.

The authors' analysis focused on whether changes in technology and relationships are responsible for this shift. "Our current culture of pervasive technology, attention-seeking, and fleeting relationships is exciting and stimulating for teens and young adults, but may not provide the stability and sense of community that mature adults require," lead author Jean M. Twenge, who is also the author of Generation Me, told a British newspaper.[5]

"American culture has increasingly emphasized high expectations and following your dreams—things that feel good when you're young," Twenge said. "However, the average mature adult has realized that their dreams might not be fulfilled, and less happiness is the inevitable result. Mature adults in previous eras might not have expected so much, but expectations are now so high they can't be met."

It may be, however, more plausible that the landscape of the working society has been substantively changed, that dreams that were once feasible now face a more uphill battle. Are a weaker economy, a weaker dollar, and a more complex world to blame? Is this change even more pronounced within healthcare? Do the expenses of healthcare and the uncertainty of the insurance marketplace come to bear?

Other questions come to mind as well: For physicians, is the electronic health record playing a role? Is the consolidation of healthcare delivery systems making it more difficult for individual doctors to find fulfillment as a "cog in the machine"? Are there other effects? What can be done?

Only you can make up your mind, but I leave you with a video to watch, which uses humor effectively to raise awareness about some serious issues currently affecting all of us who work in healthcare.

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