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Unhealthy or Negative Happiness: Ways Happiness can be Dangerous

Mansurat is a certified meditation teacher and a freelance mental health and well-being copywriter.


Have you heard of the dark side of happiness? We are all quite familiar with the good side of happiness and how this emotion invigorates the spirit. However, what we often never hear about is the corresponding bad side of this emotion.

Recent scientific research explores this other side to happiness and its impact on our well-being.

Very Happy People Gravitate Towards Risky Behavior

In a 1993 study by Howard S. Friedman, a Psychologist, and his colleagues found that very cheerful children had a greater tendency to engage in risky acts and were more at risk of mortality as they approached adulthood. The speculated explanation for this behavior was hinged on their hyperdrive and flair for dangerous activities.

Other psychologists have observed that happiness can make us unaware of impending danger. Happiness, a near-addictive emotion, leaves the individual chasing situations that promise to maintain this state of mind. Sometimes, this pursuit becomes a blind one that births a subconscious avoidance of things that could spring the individual out of this state of mind.

Happiness can Foster Apathy for Wealth Creation and Political Involvement

Some surveys have found that people who fixated on being happy at all times develop apathy for politics and a stunted desire for wealth. However, people who constantly sought happiness had an increased interest in volunteer work and social bond maintenance.

One of the primary roles played by our emotions is the assistance it renders in helping us adapt to life's unending desire for change. Our emotions help us adapt to new experiences and navigate through challenges. For example, an emotion like fear helps us retreat or fight so we can stay safe. Grief also helps us deal with loss.

Happiness enables us to work towards our goals and to work with others in achieving this. However, to effectively function, we cannot be happy all the time just like we cannot be sad, angry, or scared nonstop and function well.

Happiness can Make us 'Laid Back'

When it comes to competition for limited resources or a given goal, people who experience very high levels of happiness tend to be laid back.

A series of studies carried out by Dr. Maya Tamir of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem shows that people who took part in competitive games in an angry mood outperformed those who did in a happy mood.

The impact happiness has on our minds and body tends to differ. Have you noticed that sometimes, happiness energizes you, and sometimes it makes you feel so on top of the world that you wish to stay or lay still till the wave is calmed? And sometimes, it could make you feel so connected to everyone that you start to desire to go on a hugging spree!

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Very Happy Individuals may Earn Lower Income

Psychologist Edward Dienner in his happiness research involving 16,000 people from around the world reported that very happy individuals earned lower incomes compared with individuals who were a little less happy.

Very Happy People Tend to Stereotype More

Joe Forgas, a professor of psychology at the University of New South Wales in Australia asserts that very happy people tend to stereotype more and are way easier to deceive. In an experiment he performed with a group of students, he found that the happier students made sexist judgments of a philosophical essay by Robin Taylor. The essay was handed to all the students along with a photograph which they assumed to be a picture of the author.

One group got a picture of a middle-aged bearded man while another group got that of a young woman in a T-shirt. Despite the essays being the same, the students Induced to feel happy said the essay was written by a man and was of more quality. The other group with almost neutral emotions said there was no difference in the essay's quality.

People Obsessed With Happiness are Lonelier Than Others

Iris Mauss, a psychologist, carried out some laboratory findings that showed that people who were overly concerned about wanting to be happy felt very lonely after a stressful event.

In another experiment where she used diary studies involving 206 participants including men and women, those who were keen on ensuring that they were always happy felt more lonely compared with those who embraced their experience without expectations.


Does this mean we should be sad or chase sad situations? Of course not. We need to be happy to carry out our tasks and goals. We should cultivate routines where we focus on making ourselves happy.

What must be noted is the fact that happiness can be experienced in the 'wrong form, degree, place, and in the wrong way'. We should be mindful of how we experience happiness and how our body reacts to this emotion because sometimes, the hyperactive drive and heightened feeling of happiness could be a sign of an underlying emotional disorder.


Gruber, J., Mauss, B.I, Tamir, M. (2011). A Dark Side of Happiness? How, When, and Why Happiness is not Always Good.

Diener, E., Oishi, S., Lucas, R.E. (2007). The Optimum Level of Well-being: Can People be Too Happy?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Mansurat Zakari

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