Beautiful People Generally Happier, UT Researchers Find

TV reporter Cheryl Hickey

They say money can’t buy happiness — but can good looks do the job?

For men and women both, for Canadians and Germans and Americans and Brits alike, yes they can, UT researchers Daniel Hamermesh and Jason Abrevaya have found. Attractive people are generally happier than their plain- or ugly-looking counterparts.

The results come largely because personal beauty improves the economic factors — income, marriage prospects, etc. — that affect happiness, the researchers say.

Hamermesh had already shown in previous work that better-looking people tend to earn more money and marry more successful and higher-earning mates. His book, Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People are More Successful, will be published this summer.

It may sound like a “duh,” but consider it further. Rich people aren’t necessarily happier than the middle class — they have more possessions to worry about, not to mention the sometimes gold-digging and power-grabbing motivations of others to figure out. Think of all the wealthy families who bitterly feud over inheritances.

Beauty and happiness are harder than money to precisely measure — they’re subjective, after all — but the UT economists calculated them carefully. Here’s one of the formulas they used:

Subjects’ beauty was rated by other people rather than self-reported, and they were asked about happiness in subtle and exacting ways, after being asked about other things like income.

“Because the beauty measures are collected in a variety of ways, and because happiness is also measured in various ways,” Hamermesh and Abrevaya say, “we can be quite confident in the general validity of the conclusions.”

What do you think? Are you unsurprised that beautiful people would not only get more of society’s benefits, but also be intrinsically happier? Is there any justice in the world?

TV reporter Cheryl Hickey on the red carpet, looking beautiful but perhaps less than happy. Photo by Pulicciano/Flickr Creative Commons

Beauty is the Promise of Happiness


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