British Columbia

Housing price, size don't have much influence on happiness: UBC professor

Big rooms? High price? Great location? Or amount of greenery? What is it about our homes that make us happy? Early Edition happiness columnist Elizabeth Dunn joins Rick Cluff for a conversation about what makes us feel good when we feel at home.

Research shows homes make people happy when they help foster positive social connections

Elizabeth Dunn says that our homes can affect our happiness; but size and price aren't the main issues. (Getty Images/Westend61)

How much influence does the size and price of your home have on your happiness?

Not a lot, it appears.

"It turns out that what really matters is the extent to which our houses facilitate positive social connections," says Elizabeth Dunn, director the Happy Lab at the University of British Columbia.

The Early Edition's Rick Cluff asked Dunn about how where we live can make us happy.

What are some of the most important factors when it comes to how our homes affect our general happiness?

In one of my favourite studies, researchers found that people had more friends in their building if they lived near places like the mailroom. You're more likely to bump into the people in your building if you live in a central place where you'll see people on a day-to-day basis.

But what if you live in a house?

The same basic idea applies. Some houses are much more isolated, and they're in places where people walk out of their home, into their garage, get into their car and then drive off to the places where they actually live their lives. And those kinds of physical structures are more likely to inhibit social connections.

What about the size of your home?

One study found that the price of people's home was not in any way related to how good they felt. There does tend to be a fundamental human tendency for people to want more. It's easy for you to look at what other people have and think, "Oh, I need a little bit more."

What about a green lawn, big trees, living near a park? How does that affect your happiness?

There's tons of research that shows exposure to nature is good for our happiness. Even being able to see a tree from your home can make a difference. Having a yard can be good for happiness.

But that can be more expensive.

It can be more expensive. But when thinking about if you want a bigger home with no yard or a smaller home with a yard, I think having a yard can be a good idea because it gets us outside, which tends to make us happier. A colleague argued that the ideal size of a yard was only 13 feet deep, because it enables us to get outside to have that little bit of greenery, but it doesn't isolate us. We can easily interact with people passing by.

This interview was condensed and edited. To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled: Does a big house mean big happiness?