Happy?

Join Micael's newsletter where he discusses happiness and gives actionable tips on how to achieve satisfaction, happiness and inner calm. Only some of the newsletter articles later reach this blog. Don't miss out.

The local ladder effect

A few years ago, I moved from one of the most expensive neighbourhoods in Stockholm, the Old Town, to one of the cheaper ones, Hökarängen. I moved because I was about to start a period in my life of no income, and I needed cheaper living arrangements. What I didn't expect, was that I would love living in Hökarängen, and that I would prefer it to Old Town.

Our social status in relation with society at large does not affect our happiness levels that much, research shows. What has a larger effect though, is our status in face-to-face groups, like among our friends we hang out with or our neighbours. Feelings of social acceptance and power within groups that we meet face-to-face has been shown to significantly predict happiness and subjective well-being. This is called the “local ladder effect,” a term coined in the research paper discovering it, published in 2012 by a group of scientists in California. This effect was something I learned about just a year ago. But I think it might be the explanation for why I felt so good during the years I lived in Hökarängen. Having a lot of people around you who aren't that well off, reminds you every day how well off you are yourself.

So if you want to optimize life for maximum happiness, I think you might be doing yourself a disservice by living in the poshest neighbourhood you can afford, as many people tend to do. It puts you in a social context where you are guaranteed to always be far from the "top," which automatically makes you a victim to the local ladder effect. Even if only at a subconscious level, you will constantly be spending a lot of time and energy to try to "keep up" with your neighbours. Better then to move to a cheaper neighbourhood. Not only will you be a happier person, you will also have lot more money to spend after paying your living expenses.

Did you enjoy this article? All of my articles are from my newsletter, and only some of them reach this blog. Don't miss out: