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Researchers from Sahlgrenska Academy and Lund University analyzed more than 1.5 million words that appeared in Swedish newspapers in 2010, and found that while “people” words — like you or me, grandmother, and proper names like soccer star Zlatan — tended to appear with the Swedish word for “happiness,” “thing” words — like iPhone, millions and Google — did not.
“It’s relationships that are most important, not material things, and this is in line with other findings in happiness research,” study researcher Danilo Garcia, of the Sahlgrenska Academy’s Centre for Ethics, Law and Mental Health, said in a statement.
Researchers noted in the study, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, that the findings mirror a “collective theory of happiness” — that is, what society generally agrees brings happiness.
“This consensus influences the content of newspapers and recursively feed the collective theory of happiness itself,” the researchers wrote in the study.
Indeed, a past study in the Journal of Consumer Research also suggested that things won’t make us happy when we need a boost. That study showed links between materialism and loneliness, with more materialistic people reporting increased feelings of loneliness, and more lonely people reporting increased feelings of materialism.