I found this article of interest:
The study finds people who prioritise altruistic goals over material success are more satisfied.
Behavioural scientists have ruled out the theory that happiness is linked solely to genetics, in a study hailed as a breakthrough in psychological research.
The results of a 25-year study on 60,000 Germans
show long-term happiness is determined by lifestyle decisions including choice of partner, employment and religion.
Study leader and Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne, Bruce Headey, says the study turns the long-term notion of happiness being linked to personality on its head.
"Happiness isn't just a matter of heredity, it isn't just in the genes," he said. "Genes might be about 50 per cent of the story but the rest depends on lifestyle choices - choices relating to your partner and also relating to your work life."
The study appears in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and is based on data from the German Socio-Economic Panel.
It analyses responses from a national representative sample of people aged 16 and over who answered questions every year from 1984 to 2008.
On relationships, the findings reveal that individuals with neurotic partners are significantly less happy than those with more emotionally stable partners.
"People who select or happen to be selected by partners with relatively benign personalities, with low levels of neuroticism, and who are reasonably extroverted and outgoing, they tend to be happier than average, and happier than they would just on the basis of their own personality traits," Professor Headey said.
The study finds people who prioritise altruistic and family goals over career and material success are more satisfied with life.
It shows people who work much more or less than they want are significantly less satisfied with life than those who come close to making their preferred trade-off between work and leisure.
"Other things that matter are social activities, getting involved in social and community things with friends in an active kind of way," Professor Headey said.
He says a link between religion and happiness is also evident.
"Religion seems to work for people - people who regularly attended church or mosque were a bit happier on average than people who were non-religious or non-attenders," he said.
"So having some kind of belief system that gives you a sense of meaning or purpose is important for happiness."
Professor Headey says the findings are the first of their kind on such a large scale.
"In terms of what we research in terms of this empirical work on the determinants of life's satisfaction it is I think something of a breakthrough," he said.
"People want to be happy, they want to know what they can do to make a difference and this gives some indication of the kinds of choices that matter.
"So we don't have to be stuck with the idea that happiness is set, like disease or height or genes."
He says although the study was based on Germans, the findings can also be applied in Australia.http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010 ... 029955.htm