In recent years, researchers have attempted to use a variety of statistics and surveys to answer a question that’s occupied countless generations of philosophers: What makes us truly happy?
While some evidence suggests that happiness may be linked, in part, to relative wealth—how we’re doing compared to those around us—overall the old adage that money doesn’t buy happiness seems to hold true.
“We are materially so much better off than we were 50 years ago, but we’re not one iota happier,” says Chris Peterson, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan.
That’s no surprise to happiness expert David Myers, who sees happiness as more closely correlated with people rather than things. “We humans have a deep need to belong—to connect with others in close, supportive, intimate, caring relationships,” he says. “People who have such close relationships are more likely to report themselves ‘very happy.'”
We’ve compiled a list of eight factors that influence rates of happiness and depression. Many of these factors vary from city to city and region to region. Here’s your chance to see how your city compares.