Calculating the impossible


BBC published an article about Carol Rothwell and Peter Cohen, two people who have done the impossible: they have found a way to put happiness into a formula. The formula is P + 5E + 3H.

According to the article, “P stands for Personal Characteristics, including outlook on life, adaptability and resilience. E stands for Existence and relates to health, financial stability and friendships. And H represents Higher Order needs, and covers self-esteem, expectations, ambitions and sense of [humor].”

Happiness, as defined by, is feeling or showing pleasure, contentment or joy.

Biology plays a large part in how happy someone is. This especially applies to teenagers who are in the late stages of puberty. Some people produce more of (or less of) the hormones and chemicals that create the feeling of joy. One of these chemicals is serotoin, a neuro-transmitter and chemical messenger. If one’s serotonin levels are out of balance, then they may feel depressed.

Although, most people claim that money doesn’t buy happiness, it does factor into how happy they are. The truth is that by desiring wealth, fame, status, prestige and fortune, one may become happier.

An article in the Huffington Post managed to put a price on happiness. According to their research, they have found that the tipping point for happiness is roughly $75,000.

So how can people put such a complex emotion into an equation?

Rothwell said, “This is the first equation of its kind that enables people to put a figure on their emotional state. The research findings show that certain life events… can impact positively on your overall happiness score.”

Maura Phillips, a sophomore, doesn’t think it’s possible. “You can’t calculate [happiness] because our emotions can’t be counted,” Phillips said.

“It’s bull,” Zoe Simpkins, a sophomore, agreed. “Happiness isn’t math.”

Mrs. Kindler, an Algebra teacher, said, “Personally… I don’t know. But I’m sure that some mathematician does [think you can calculate happiness].”

There is a four question survey accompanying the equation. Each question is answered on a scale of one to ten, one being “not at all” and ten being “all the time”.

The first question is “Are you outgoing and flexible to change?” The second is “Do you feel you are in control of your life and have a positive outlook on life?” Third, “Are you basic needs met socially, mentally, physically and emotionally?” And finally, “Can you call on others for support?”

The answer to the first question represents P. The sum of the second and third question is E and is multiplied by five. H is represented by the answer to the fourth question, which is then multiplied by three. These results are added together and judged on a scale of 100. The higher the number, the happier one is.

Contrary to skepticism, this overly simple equation does make sense. In order to be happy, teenagers need pleasure in their lives.

A teen’s life must have meaning. Students need to be reminded that they matter and that what they do matters. They should know that they are valued and that their lives make a difference. All of these factors credit a teen’s self-esteem, which is represented by H in the equation.
Students also need the small satisfactions found in a beautiful sunrise, a kind gesture or laughter.

Larger pleasure, found in things such as academic success or love, is necessary as well. These pleasures better a teenager’s personal outlook on life, or P in the equation.

Teenagers are very social creatures. This alone, may increase their happiness.  

According to a Science Agogo article: “[Our] work was exploring the idea that emotions are a collective phenomenon and not just an individual one… Researchers say [that] the relationship between people’s happiness can extend up to three degrees of separation… and that people who are surrounded by happy people are likely to become happy in the future.”

These social interactions, represented by E, are necessary to a teen’s happiness.

In fact, the lack of these elements may result in depression amongst many students. Harvard Magazine wrote: “More and more students experience stress, anxiety, [and] unhappiness… Students work longer hours and are having to build up their résumés to levels that, 20 years ago, were not expected of young people. Students today are looking for ideas that will help them to lead better lives.”

Even those who were critical of the equation for happiness were shocked when they saw their results. Simpkins scored a 94. “It’s right because I’m a pretty happy person,” she said, disbelievingly.

Kindler, who scored a 91, agrees. “Yeah… I think [my score] is accurate.”

Even though Algebra is a subject that most wouldn’t associate with an emotion, it now seems that finding happiness is only a couple of calculations away.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.