Secret to Happiness at Work Revealed

The secret to happiness at work is being happy with other facets of your life, studies suggest.

People who are unhappy in life are unlikely to find satisfaction in their work, a recent review of previous studies on the subject has found.

The analysis examined the results of 223 studies carried out between 1967 and 2008 that investigated some combination of job satisfaction and life satisfaction.

"We used studies that assessed these factors at two time points, so that we could better understand the causal links between job satisfaction and life satisfaction," said psychologist Nathan Bowling of Wright State University, who led the meta-analysis. "If people are satisfied at work, does this mean they will be more satisfied and happier in life overall? Or is the causal effect the opposite way around?"

Bowling and his Wright State colleagues, Kevin Eschleman and Qiang Wang, looked at sub-dimensions of job satisfaction — which included satisfaction with the work itself, supervision, co-workers, pay and promotion — and examined the relationship between the subjects' self-reported happiness, or "subjective well-being," and overall job satisfaction.

The researchers found a positive relationship between job satisfaction and life satisfaction, indicating that the two are closely related.

The review also provided telling results about the causal link between the two forms of happiness.

The causal link between subjective well-being and subsequent levels of job satisfaction was found to be stronger than the link between job satisfaction and subsequent levels of subjective well-being. In other words, people who are generally happy and satisfied in life are more likely to be happy and satisfied in their work as well, as opposed to the other way around.

"However, the flip side of this finding could be that those people who are dissatisfied generally and who seek happiness through their work, may not find job satisfaction," Bowling said. "Nor might they increase their levels of overall happiness by pursuing it."

The findings of this study were published in the online edition of the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology on April 1.

Denise Chow
Live Science Contributor

Denise Chow was the assistant managing editor at Live Science before moving to NBC News as a science reporter, where she focuses on general science and climate change. Before joining the Live Science team in 2013, she spent two years as a staff writer for, writing about rocket launches and covering NASA's final three space shuttle missions. A Canadian transplant, Denise has a bachelor's degree from the University of Toronto, and a master's degree in journalism from New York University.