We do a lot in our effort to be happy. Check out Amazon, and you’ll find more than 2,000 titles with advice about what brings us happiness. Another way we try to increase our happiness is with medication. Lots of medication. From Prozac to Paxil to Zoloft, there are more than 120 million prescriptions for anti-depressants out there. Then, there’s the illegal drug trade — a $400 billion industry that makes up about 8 percent of world trade, which many people pursue in their quest for happiness.

Below is a preview of an interview regarding the topic done by Dr. Nancy Etcoff, cognitive researcher studying the science of happiness and beauty. She’s also assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School and director of the program in aesthetics and well-being at Massachusetts General Hospital’s department of psychiatry.

On what research says about how happy people are, really?

Dr. Nancy Etcoff: “I think we’re doing about the same as ever. If you look across many nations and try to track global happiness, on a 10-point scale you’ll find [Americans] between 6.5 and 7. So, we’re not generally unhappy, we’re not at the top of happiness. But people want to pursue happiness. Particularly in this country, people always want to be happier.”

On people who try to medicate themselves toward happiness:

NE: “Anti-depressants have helped a certain number of people who are clinically depressed. … Among those who are depressed, there is a bit of a placebo effect. I don’t think one would take Prozac to become happy — one would take Prozac to become less depressed.”

[Click here to read the full interview]

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