Quality of Life Research

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 171–178 | Cite as

Health and happiness in young Swiss adults

  • Thomas V. Perneger
  • Patricia M. Hudelson
  • Patrick A. Bovier


Purpose: To explore whether self-reported happiness is associated with mental and physical health status among young adults. Methods: Cross-sectional survey of 1257 randomly selected university students in Geneva, Switzerland. The questionnaire included an item that probed the feeling of happiness in the past month, the Short Form-12 health survey (from which mental and physical health scores were computed), scales to measure self-esteem, stress, and social support, reports of various life problems, and socio-demographic information. Results: Most participants felt happy all of the time or most of the time (63%). In multivariate analysis, feeling happy all or most of the time was strongly associated with better mental health (odds ratios for consecutive quartiles of mental health scores: 1.0 (reference), 6.8 (95% confidence interval (CI): 4.5–10.1), 19.2 (95% CI: 12.2–30.2), 39.9 (95% CI: 22.4–71.0)), but also with the feeling of getting enough love and affection (item from the social support scale, odds ratio: 1.9; 95% CI: 1.4–2.7), female sex (odds ratio: 1.5; 95% CI: 1.1–2.1), being Swiss (odds ratio: 1.8; 95% CI: 1.3–2.5), and higher self-esteem (odds ratios for consecutive quartiles ranged from 1.0 to 3.5, 95% CI: 2.1–5.8). The association between happiness and physical health was weak and statistically non-significant. Conclusions: The strong association between happiness and mental health suggests that asking people if they are happy may help identify mental health care needs. Self-reported happiness may also be a useful outcome measure for evaluation of health interventions.

Happiness Mental health Physical health Population surveys 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas V. Perneger
    • 1
    • 2
  • Patricia M. Hudelson
    • 3
  • Patrick A. Bovier
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Quality of Care UnitGeneva University HospitalsGenevaSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute of Social and Preventive MedicineUniversity of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of Community MedicineGeneva University HospitalsGenevaSwitzerland

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