June 25, 2016

Wisdom is associated with well-being

Are people with stronger cognitive abilities happier? Previous research into this question led to inconclusive results. Researchers Grossman et al. (2013) suspected that this was because this research primarily looked into the relation between intelligence and well-being and not to other qualities such as wisdom. That is why they did a study with 241 people in which they investigated the relationships between 5 variables: 1) intelligence, 2) wisdom, 3) personality, 4 age, and 5) well-being. Wisdom was measured through a structured interview method; the other variables were measured using validated tests and scales.

Findings

This study showed that wisdom predicted the following aspects of well-being: life satisfaction, fewer negative emotions, more positive emotions, less rumination, use of more positive and less negative words, and longevity. The association between wisdom and well-being held after controlling for socioeconomic factors, verbal abilities, and several personality traits.

Two other interesting findings emerged. First, intelligence did not predict well-being. Of course, this does not imply that intelligence is not a good thing; well-being is not the only important outcome in life. Second, personality did, to some extent, predict well-being: agreeableness and conscientiousness correlated positively with well-being; neuroticism and extraversion negatively. Third, age correlated with well-being: the older the more happy. This relationship between age and well-being turned out to be mediated by wisdom.

These findings clarify why older people, as their intellectual abilities decline to some extent, still, on average, become more happy. These intellectual abilities do not predict well-being whereas wisdom does.

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