We are happier if others are happy too

The satisfaction a person feels with their own life is associated with the quality of existence enjoyed by their peers, it has been suggested. New research carried out by Ed Diener - Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Illinois - shows that happiness is not just an individual affair.

Lead by Professor Diener, researchers from the institution - located in Chicago - tested US Psychologist Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs model, which suggested a person's happiness can be represented by a pyramid design with different sections portraying human needs.

Using the Gallup World Poll - which carried out surveys in 155 countries between 2005 and 2010 - the investigators found Maslow was correct in thinking the fulfilment of a range of needs are universal and necessary for satisfaction.

It was also found that people have higher life evaluations when the needs of others in society are also satisfied.

Professor Diener said: "We found that a person can report having good social relationships and self-actualisation even if their basic needs and safety needs are not completely fulfilled."

Dr Abigael San, Chartered Clinical Psychologist, commented: "This is very interesting research and can be explained by social comparison theory which holds that we learn about ourselves by drawing comparisons to others with whom we think we are similar. 

"We also gravitate towards self-improvement, therefore our comparisons are often made with others who are viewed as more capable. Whereas appraising the lives of others with whom we identify as satisfying can generate a feeling of self-satisfaction, it is also true that this comparison can lead to feelings of envy. 

"Future research might shed light on the mediating factors that determine whether satisfaction or envy, or perhaps a combination of the two, will arise out of our social comparisons."