Reach out and touch someone

Despite the rapid pace of growth in the virtual world, human contact with family and partners wins hands down (77 percent) when it comes to happiness, according to Coca-Cola Co.'s Happiness Barometer.

Some 12,500 consumers in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, France, Italy, Mexico, Philippines, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, UK and the U.S. were surveyed. In order, people are happiest in Mexico, the Philippines, Argentina, South Africa, Romania and the U.S. Other findings include: Teenagers are generally happier than their parents (71 percent versus 66 percent of those 40 or older); Females derive more happiness from their friends and family than their male counterparts (88 percent versus 81 percent); and "Retail Therapy" is confirmed as a female phenomenon with 25 percent shopping when they need cheering up versus only 10 percent of men.

Supporting this notion that human, rather than virtual interaction, is a greater source of pleasure; the biggest highlights of the day include catching up with loved ones in the evening (39 percent), eating with the family (22 percent) and chatting to friends or colleagues (17 percent). Modern alternatives such as watching TV (14 percent), connecting with others online (5 percent) and receiving the day's first text message (2 percent) paled in comparison.


To help interpret the results, Coca-Cola invited Dr. Richard Stevens, M.A., Ph. D., a social psychologist and author of Personal Worlds and Understanding the Self, who specializes in happiness and wellbeing, to provide his perspective on the findings. In his analysis, he noted, "While it is important to have enough money to live, income is a fairly irrelevant contributor to happiness. Without relationships, love, family or friendship, most people will not be content and no amount of money can fill this void."


Striving for celebrity did not come out as a popular source of happiness in the study. The results showed that, globally, people wouldn't choose fame and fortune to bring happiness, instead citing traveling around the world (37 percent), volunteering to help others (26 percent) and meeting the love of their life (12 percent) as being the key contributors to happiness.


In the U.S. females are more likely than males to hug when they need cheering up (23 percent versus 15 percent). Females are also more than three times more likely than males to shop when they need some form of happiness (14 percent versus 4 percent). For U.S. teens, music is important (18 percent) and 22 percent say listening to music is one of the happiest moments of the day.


Overall global happiness levels are high, with more than two thirds of people (67 percent) declaring they are satisfied with their lives. When we do need cheering up, 38 percent of us turn to a night out with friends and 22 percent give or receive a big, warm hug!