Nav: Home

You're not alone in feeling alone

September 14, 2017

Feel like everyone else has more friends than you do? You're not alone-- but merely believing this is true could affect your happiness. A new study from the University of British Columbia, Harvard Business School and Harvard Medical School has found that new university students consistently think their peers have more friends and spend more time socializing than they do. Even when that's untrue, simply believing so affected students' wellbeing and sense of belonging.

"We know the size of your social networks has a significant effect on happiness and wellbeing," said study lead author Ashley Whillans, assistant professor at Harvard Business School who carried out the research while a PhD candidate at UBC. "But our research shows that even mere beliefs you have about your peers' social networks has an impact on your happiness."

The researchers used data collected from a survey of 1,099 first-year students at UBC. Students were asked how many friends they had made and to estimate how many friends their peers had made since starting school in September.

The researchers found a greater proportion of students (48 per cent) believed other students had made more close friends than they did. Thirty-one per cent believed the opposite.

A second survey tracking 389 students across their first year found students who believed their peers had more friends at the beginning of the year reported lower levels of wellbeing.

However, several months later, the same students who thought their peers had moderately more friends than they did at the beginning of the year reported making more friends compared to students who thought their peers had many more friends.

"We think students are motivated to make more friends if they think their peers only have one or two more friends than they do," said Whillans. "But if they feel like the gap is too big, it's almost as if they give up and feel it isn't even worth trying."

Frances Chen, the study's senior author and assistant professor in the UBC department of psychology, said the public nature of social activities is likely why students feel their peers are doing better socially.

"Since social activities, like eating or studying with others, tend to happen in cafes and libraries where they are easily seen, students might overestimate how much their peers are socializing because they don't see them eating and studying alone," said Chen.

The findings could help inform university initiatives to support students' transition to university life, possibly through an intervention to correct social misperceptions and promote friendship formation, said Chen.

More research is needed to determine whether the same pattern emerges among new immigrants, or people moving to a new city or starting a new job, said Chen.

"These feelings and perceptions are probably the strongest when people first enter a new social environment, but most of us probably experience them at some point in our lives," she said.
-end-
The study, co-authored by Chelsea Christie and Sarah Cheung at UBC and Alexander Jordan at Harvard Medical School, was published today in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

University of British Columbia

Related Happiness Articles:

Sleep regularity is important for the happiness and well-being of college students
Preliminary results from the 'SNAPSHOT study,' an NIH-funded collaborative research project between the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and MIT Media Lab Affective Computing Group, suggest that keeping a regular sleep pattern contributes to the happiness and well-being of college students.
Mothers' relationship happiness may influence infant fussiness
How happy a mother is in her relationship and the social support she receives may affect the risk of infant colic, according to Penn State College of Medicine researchers.
Can dealing with emotional exhaustion enhance happiness?
New research from the University of East Anglia suggests that the process of dealing with emotional exhaustion can sometimes increase happiness.
Emoticons help gauge school happiness level in young children
The How I Feel About My School questionnaire, designed by experts at the University of Exeter Medical School, is available to download for free.
Where belief in free will is linked to happiness
Free will describes the ability to make independent choices, where the outcome of the choice is not influenced by past events.
New equation reveals how other people's fortunes affect our happiness
A new equation, showing how our happiness depends not only on what happens to us but also how this compares to other people, has been developed by UCL researchers funded by Wellcome.
Measuring happiness on social media
In a study published in March in the journal PLOS One, University of Iowa computer scientists used two years of Twitter data to measure users' life satisfaction, a component of happiness.
The first happiness genes have been located
For the first time in history, researchers have isolated the parts of the human genome that could explain the differences in how humans experience happiness.
Links between money and happiness uncovered
Changes in income do not affect most people's happiness, most of the time, according to a new study led by the University of Stirling.
Valuing your time more than money is linked to happiness
Valuing your time more than the pursuit of money is linked to greater happiness, according to new research published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

Related Happiness Reading:

Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill
by Matthieu Ricard (Author), Daniel Goleman (Foreword)

In this groundbreaking book, Matthieu Ricard makes a passionate case for happiness as a goal that deserves as least as much energy as any other in our lives.
Wealth? Fitness? Career success? How can we possibly place these above true and lasting well-being? Drawing from works of fiction and poetry, Western philosophy, Buddhist beliefs, scientific research, and personal experience, Ricard weaves an inspirational and forward-looking account of how we can begin to rethink our realities in a fast-moving modern world. With its revelatory lessons and exercises, Happiness is an... View Details


The Happiness Project (Revised Edition): Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun
by Gretchen Rubin (Author)

“This book made me happy in the first five pages.” —AJ Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible

Award-winning author Gretchen Rubin is back with a bang, with The Happiness Project. The author of the bestselling 40 Ways to Look at Winston Churchill has produced a work that is “a cross between the Dalai Lama’s The Art of Happiness and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love.” (Sonya Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness: A... View Details


The Art of Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Handbook for Living
by Dalai Lama (Author)

An updated edition of a beloved classic, the original book on happiness, with new material from His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Dr. Howard Cutler.

Nearly every time you see him, he's laughing, or at least smiling. And he makes everyone else around him feel like smiling. He's the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet, a Nobel Prize winner, and a hugely sought-after speaker and statesman. Why is he so popular? Even after spending only a few minutes in his presence you can't help feeling happier.

If you ask him if he's happy, even though he's suffered the... View Details


Happiness: A Memoir: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After
by Heather Harpham (Author)

A shirt-grabbing, page-turning love story that follows a one-of-a-kind family through twists of fate that require nearly unimaginable choices.

Happiness begins with a charming courtship between hopelessly attracted opposites: Heather, a world-roaming California girl, and Brian, an intellectual, homebody writer, kind and slyly funny, but loath to leave his Upper West Side studio. Their magical interlude ends, full stop, when Heather becomes pregnant―Brian is sure he loves her, only he doesn't want kids. Heather returns to California to deliver their daughter alone,... View Details


Resisting Happiness
by Matthew Kelly (Author)

A true story about why we sabotage ourselves, feel overwhelmed, set aside our dreams, and lack the courage to simply be ourselves... and how to start choosing happiness again!

Are you happy? It may be the wrong question. Most of us think we are relatively happy, while at the same time knowing that we could be happier -- maybe even a lot happier. Ordinary people and the finest philosophers have been exploring the question of happiness for thousands of years, and theories abound. But this is not a book of theory. Resisting Happiness is a deeply personal, disarmingly transparent... View Details


Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence
by Rick Hanson (Author)

Why is it easier to ruminate over hurt feelings than it is to bask in the warmth of being appreciated?

Because your brain evolved to learn quickly from bad experiences, but slowly from good ones.
 
You can change this.
 
Life isn’t easy, and having a brain wired to take in the bad and ignore the good makes us worried, irritated, and stressed, instead of confident, secure, and happy. But each day is filled with opportunities to build inner strengths and Dr. Rick Hanson, an acclaimed clinical psychologist, shows what you can do to override the brain’s... View Details


The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom
by Jonathan Haidt (Author)

"For the reader who seeks to understand happiness, my advice is: Begin with Haidt."--Martin E. P. Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness
In his widely praised book, award-winning psychologist Jonathan Haidt examines the world's philosophical wisdom through the lens of psychological science, showing how a deeper understanding of enduring maxims--like "do unto others as you would have others do unto you," or "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger"--can enrich and even transform our lives. View Details


The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want
by Sonja Lyubomirsky (Author)

Learn how to achieve the happiness you deserve

"A guide to sustaining your newfound contentment." --Psychology Today

You see here a different kind of happiness book. The How of Happiness is a comprehensive guide to understanding the elemetns of happiness based on years of groundbreaking scientific research. It is also a practical, empowering, and easy-to-follow workbook, incorporating happiness strategies, excercises in new ways of thinking, and quizzes for understanding our individuality, all in an effort to help us realize our innate potential for joy and... View Details


The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything=Have Everything
by Neil Pasricha (Author)

The new book from the New York Times–bestselling author of The Book of Awesome that “reveals how all of us can live happier lives” (Gretchen Rubin).
 
What is the formula for a happy life? Neil Pasricha is a Harvard MBA, a New York Times–bestselling author, a Walmart executive, a father, a husband. After selling more than a million copies of the Book of Awesome series, wherein he observed the everyday things he thought were awesome, he now shifts his focus to the practicalities of living an awesome life.

In his new book... View Details


TIME The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries for a More Joyful Life
by The Editors Of TIME (Author)

“Don’t worry, be happy.” Sounds simple enough, yet many encounter setbacks in their pursuit of happiness. What if we could definitively say: “If you do this, you will achieve a happier and healthier life?” What if we could unlock the key to happiness? Enter Science.

In an all new special edition from TIME, The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries for a More Joyful Life, editors investigate exclusive, cutting-edge research from the Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness. Focusing in on the debate surrounding whether or not there is a direct relationship... View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2017

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2017. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Simple Solutions
Sometimes, the best solutions to complex problems are simple. But simple doesn't always mean easy. This hour, TED speakers describe the innovation and hard work that goes into achieving simplicity. Guests include designer Mileha Soneji, chef Sam Kass, sleep researcher Wendy Troxel, public health advocate Myriam Sidibe, and engineer Amos Winter.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#448 Pavlov (Rebroadcast)
This week, we're learning about the life and work of a groundbreaking physiologist whose work on learning and instinct is familiar worldwide, and almost universally misunderstood. We'll spend the hour with Daniel Todes, Ph.D, Professor of History of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University, discussing his book "Ivan Pavlov: A Russian Life in Science."