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The study of happiness: a modern luxury?

Narrator: This is Science Today. Research on happiness used to be considered an unscientific, fuzzy topic; but now, there is a whole area of economics focused on happiness, as well as neuroscience. Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California, Riverside, has been studying happiness for over two decades.

Lyubomirsky: I didn't really set out to become a happiness expert, but I've always been fascinated with emotions and happiness. You know, happiness is like the Holy Grail. You know, everyone is interested in happiness and how to become happier and here I am, 24 years later, still doing research on happiness.

Narrator: And yet, Lyubomirsky admits that it's a luxury for a society to be examining their happiness.

Lyubomirsky: When you look at the general picture, Americans especially and Westerners are really preoccupied with happiness and one theory is that living in sort of this post-materialistic world that we live in, that we have the luxury to consider our happiness. Back in the day or in other cultures, when people were very busy just getting food on the table, worrying about shelter and safety and sort of basic needs, you know they didn't have time to worry about, am I happy?

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.