Despite Happy Lives, Americans Debilitated by Rare Negative Events

It may come as no surprise for a nation built on capitalistic measures of success, but it seems that Americans really do seem to require bigger, more powerful experiences in order to feel better about themselves.

According to a new study published in the October issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, positive events have a weaker effect on Americans as compared to Japanese and Koreans. Although Americans are more likely to be generally happier than their Asian counterparts, their contentment is more restrained in positive conditions and they are more distressed when negative situations arise.

Specifically, the study found that the number of positive events required to offset one negative event for European Americans is 1.91, while Koreans were found to need 1.32 positive events, and Asian Americans 1.31, while Japanese came in at an even 1:1. The results imply that those who are generally happier have higher expectations about the regularity of that happiness. If one is always expecting positive events, their potency pales in comparison to the occasional negative event.

Further, the research suggests that while experiencing many positive events may boost “global happiness,” an abundance of positive events also could reduce the impact of those events on “daily happiness.”

For more about this study, visit the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.