According to researchers with Washington State University, people who travel often are likely measurably happier than those who travel only rarely.
For the study, WSU assistant professor Chun-Chu Chen said about 500 people participated in a survey where they were asked a number of questions related to their personal life satisfaction and how frequently they travel. A core finding of the survey was that respondents who reported traveling 75 miles or more from home also reported being 7 percent happier than those who said they don’t travel often or at all.
Chen, who has been studying life satisfaction and its benefits for about eight years, said past studies have found even a single vacation produces measurable benefits. He said this study was able to show how these benefits may build up over time.
“I studied the frequency of travel, so I tried to know this long term or cumulative effect of travel and we do see these relationships,” Chen said. “It’s not super high, but I think it makes sense because the way I measure happiness is your life satisfaction — it’s everything, it’s your family, your at work — so I think 7 percent makes sense.”
The second major finding of the study deals with a concept from social psychology called “attitude importance.” Put simply, Chen said people who assign a lot of personal importance to a given subject, really care about that subject and anything related to it and people act on these feelings. The survey supported this idea, he said, by showing that people who talk about travel often and spend time thinking about and researching their next trip tend to travel more frequently.
“If you really love travel, you think travel is very important to you, then you will actually search for travel related information on a regular basis,” he said. “You will also talk about travel with your friends on a regular basis and that will motivate you to travel more and then you will be happier.”
Chen said this concept of positive life experiences having a cumulative effect on happiness is called the “bottom-up model” and is influenced by other factors like wealth — though he noted other studies have shown that happiness doesn’t necessarily correlate directly with wealth.
He said the study does not assert that travel is the most important factor in personal happiness — but it is a factor, and possibly a potent one.
“You still have other building blocks in your life that will determine your life satisfaction and also other studies suggest that personality is the most important factor,” Chen said. “Some people argue that and there are some studies that suggest that yeah, if you are positive, no matter what — no matter how rich you are, how poor you are — you could still be very happy.”