British researchers say that access to technology, particularly devices that serve up the Internet, significantly improve a person's sense of well being. And if you are a woman, that goes double for you.
Researchers drew their conclusions by analyzing data from 35,000 responses across 39 countries as part the World Values Survey (WVS). They also delved into 10,000 survey responses to the British Husehold Panel Study. "IT has a direct positive impact on life satisfaction, even when controlling for income and other factors known to be important in determining well-being," the researchers wrote in their 39-page report, Why IT makes you ‘happier' (PDF).
What I love about this report is that it flies in the face of conventional wisdom. It debunks the stereotype of the lonely person surfing the Web, playing video games or chatting on social networks as a sad substitute for real human connection.
Researchers write, "Where IT is mentioned in relation to well-being it is often negative, with a stream of media reports suggesting it causes isolation, or even contributes to the problems of childhood obesity ... but is this really true?" Nope. Technology offers an "information dividend" that "helps to empower people and thus gives them a sense of freedom and being in control," they conclude.
Another myth-busting finding of the report was this: women got the biggest happiness boost from access to technology, particularly those in developing nations, although British women loved the Internet, too. As one woman said, the main benefit of IT is "being in touch with people. I am on my own quite a lot with two young children, it’s [an Apple iPhone] either in my jeans pocket or by the side of my bed. It’s an important part of my life."
For men, life satisfaction increased as usage increased. The more time a man spent with his technology, the happier he said he was.
Interestingly, folks said that access to technology most improved the satisfaction with their family life, but it least improved satisfaction with their jobs. Clearly e-mail, Facebook, Skype can help a modern far flung family feel connected. An e-mail string or video chat with your boss doesn't give people the same warm fuzzy feeling.
Since E-mail remains the task that most folks love, it's also the thing they would miss most if technology access was taken from them. but social network sites, chatting, shopping and online games would all be missed by a significant number of people. The newer you are to the Internet, the more likely you are to name social networking as important as e-mail
So there it is. A joystick really can make you happier.