Friends with Benefits: Pets Make Us Happier, Healthier

Friends with Benefits: Pets Make Us Happier, Healthier


By Allen R McConnell Ph.D.

Social support is essential for psychological and physical well-being, but are people the only source of a sense of belonging? For example, lonely people are often advised to get a dog or a cat to quell their social isolation, but is it really the case that pets can fulfill one’s social needs, serving to improve owners’ happiness, well-being, and even their physical health? A new study suggests the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Research conducted in our lab and published online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology indicates that pets provide meaningful social support for owners, improving their lives. Whereas some past research found that people facing serious health challenges — such as heart attacks or HIV — fare better with pets, the current work found that everyday people can benefit from pet ownership as well.

In three different studies, we found consistent evidence that pets represent important social relationships, conferring significant benefits to their owners (McConnell et al., in press). In one study involving 217 community members, pet owners exhibited greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, were less lonely, were more conscientious, were more socially outgoing, and had healthier relationship styles (i.e., they were less fearful and less preoccupied) than nonowners.

Another interesting finding was that pet owners reported receiving as much support from their pets as they did from their family members and that people reported being closer to their pets as they were also closer to other people. Thus, people did not turn to pets because their human social support was poor — instead, owners seem to extend their general human social competencies to their pets as well.

In a second study, we found that 56 dog owners who reported that their pet fulfilled their social needs more effectively by providing a greater sense of belongingness, meaningful existence, control, and self-esteem were happier and healthier. They were less depressed, had greater self-esteem, and were less lonely and stressed out. In this study, people benefited in terms of health and well-being both from human sources and from pet sources of social support independently, and once again, there was no evidence that people relied on pets more when their human social support was lacking.

Although Studies 1 and 2 were correlational, we conducted a third study in the lab to experimentally examine the ability of pets to benefit people. In this experiment, 97 pet owners came to the lab. Some were induced to feel socially rejected while others were not. Afterward, pet owners either (1) wrote about their pet (2) wrote about their best friend or (3) drew a map of campus (a control condition).

As expected, those who drew a map after experiencing social rejection felt worse at the end of the experiment than they were at the beginning of the study, showing that our social rejection manipulation was effective. However, those who wrote about their dog were just as happy as those who wrote about their best friend (both groups did not show any negative feelings, even after the rejection experience was induced).

In short, thinking about one’s pet staved off the negativity that accompanies social isolation as effectively as thinking about one’s best friend. To borrow from the old adage, although pets may not be one’s best friend, pets may be every bit as good!

Overall, our research found that pet ownership was very positive. Pet owners were happier and healthier than nonowners, and thoughts of one’s pet could insulate one from feeling down following a social rejection experience. Interestingly, there was no support for the “crazy cat lady” hypothesis (i.e., individuals who turn to animals because they “don’t click” with people).

If anything, people benefited more from their pets when they had better human relationships. For example, introverted people (who aren’t outgoing) or narcissists (who put themselves first and feel superior to others) were less likely, rather than more likely, to enjoy positive consequences from their pets.

Also, in our research, we found no evidence that the type of pet (dogs vs. cats) mattered. People were able to anthropomorphize a variety of animals species in our studies (dogs, cats, horses, lizards, even a goat) and it appears that “the power of pets” is more about what lies in the owners’ mind than what lies at their feet, at the end of a leash, or in an aquarium.

Finally, one might wonder what this research has to do with “the self,” which is the focus of this blog. One thing that we know about close, important people in our lives is that they become “included in the self.” That is, key people in our lives actually become enmeshed cognitively and emotionally in our self-concept. For example, “blurry lines” evolve between people’s sense of self and close others, often perceiving one’s own traits in close others and seeing close others’ qualities as descriptive of the self. Healthy individuals empathize with close others in their lives, adopting their perspective and sharing their feelings instinctively. Our work demonstrated that pets can function similarly — they become as much a part of the self as many family members, which undoubtedly, contributes to their power in promoting our health and happiness.

To conclude, we would not contend that pets represent a panacea for psychological well-being. For instance, our data would suggest that individuals with psychological shortcomings (e.g., negative personality types, less effective relationship styles) may find less value from pet ownership than individuals who are “real people people.” Also, pet ownership entails considerable responsibility and involvement (e.g., time, money, physical engagement), and just like with any human relationship, having a low quality connection with one’s pet certainly will diminish the positive consequences one can enjoy.

Yet, our research indicates that for everyday people, pets are often “friends with benefits,” and that one’s health and happiness improves in a meaningful way from pet ownership.


McConnell, A. R., Brown, C. M., Shoda, T. M., Stayton, L. E., & Martin, C. E. Friends with benefits: On the positive consequences of pet ownership. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Are You Feeling Lonely? How About Getting A Pet?

Are You Feeling Lonely? How About Getting A Pet?


By Bruce Y. Lee

They aren’t great at texting you when they are running late. You shouldn’t expect to get any car rides from them. They may poop when you are discussing something serious with them. No, they aren’t a replacement for human contact. Nevertheless, could pets play a role in dealing with what has been an increasing problem among adults: loneliness?

If you feel alone and lonely, you are paradoxically not alone. As I have written before, a CIGNA survey of over 20,000 American adults found that 46% felt alone either sometimes or always, 47% felt left out, 27% rarely or never felt as though there are people who really understand them, 43% felt that their relationships are not meaningful, and 43% felt isolated from others. According to the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration web site, “two in five Americans report that they sometimes or always feel their social relationships are not meaningful, and one in five say they feel lonely or socially isolated.” Based on the U.S. Census, over a quarter of adults in the U.S. population now live by themselves.

Sure, loneliness may help you compose the next great pop song. But for most people, the risk is a range of possibly serious health consequences. Vivek Murthy, MD MBA, the 19th U.S. Surgeon General, serving from 2014 to 2017, has emphasized that “loneliness is linked to both mental and physical health concerns. When I have visited communities, people will frequently tell me stories about dealing with different health challenges like addiction, chronic illnesses, obesity, anxiety, and depression. What many times can come out, after further digging, are their struggles with loneliness.” While having health struggles certainly can lead to loneliness, the question is how much is loneliness leading to health struggles such as anxiety, depression, obesity, and addiction. If our society is trying to combat major public heath problems like the obesity epidemic and the opioid crisis without really addressing the loneliness problem, are we barking up the wrong tree?

Speaking of barking, how might pets help with this loneliness problem, which Murthy has called a loneliness epidemic? Last month, the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Mars Petcare convened a Summit on Social Isolation and Companion Animals to address this particular question. The Summit included a discussion with Murthy as well as talks by Layla Esposito, PhD, a Program Director at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), and Nancy Gee, PhD, a Professor of Psychology at the State University of New York at Fredonia, summarizing what scientific studies have said about the health benefits of human-animal interactions.

It would make sense for pets to be able to help with loneliness. After all, unless they violate their curfews and stay out all night partying, they can provide steady companionship. They can also exhibit a range of human-like behaviors. For example, a dog can show you gratitude and affection by leaping into your arms and embracing you, although most humans wouldn’t lick your face to show gratitude. And a cat could be secretly plotting your demise, as I have described previously for Forbes.

Moreover, companion animals can prompt you to engage in healthy activities that may decrease your feelings of social isolation such as going outdoors and getting exercise. After all, you have to take a dog for a walk periodically, otherwise you may have some nasty surprise gifts waiting for you at home. Companion animals can facilitate interactions with other humans as well. This was what a former medical school classmate of mine had in mind when he got a dog to help him meet women.

Studies have shown that pet ownership may be associated with lower degrees of loneliness. For example, published in BMC Geriatrics, an analysis of data from 5,210 older adults who were part of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, found that those who owned pets were less likely to report being lonely. It also found that people who did not report themselves to be lonely were more likely to own pets. A study published in the journal Aging and Mental Health analyzed survey data from a sample of 830 primary care patients who were 60 years and older. The analysis revealed that pet owners were 36% less likely than non-pet owners to report loneliness. These studies don’t necessarily prove that pets alone can alleviate loneliness as they show associations not causation. Someone who is more likely to get an animal companion could also be more likely to maintain other aspects of his or her life that could alleviate loneliness.

Murthy did caution that “companion animals do not replace human interaction. But they can help when someone is struggling to establish meaningful human relationships.” Indeed, don’t be inclined to shut off human contact because you think dogs, cats or other animals are more agreeable and don’t seem to talk back to you (at least in a way that you can understand). You still need someone to challenge you more, to question you if you are going to do something stupid, and to bring other points of view so that you can grow. Companion animals can’t do these in the same way humans can. For example, you may not be able to hear it when your goldfish says, “screw you,” while swimming away.

Plus, like any given human being, a companion animal can’t be all things for you. Just like one person can’t replace an entire social network, a companion animal will be limited in what he or she can do for you. For example, a companion animal can’t participate in all the activities that you may want to do. A turtle may make a terrible jogging partner. Cats are awful at karaoke. Instead, you need a social system in place that can provide different things at different times. That’s why fixing the loneliness problem will require fixing the systems that are leading to social isolation.

Pets alone cannot solve the loneliness problem in American that’s increasingly being called a loneliness epidemic, but they can help. Of course, having a companion animal comes with responsibility and is not for everyone. You shouldn’t just get a dog because you are feeling lonely. You have to be ready to take care of your friend. Moreover, not all animals are the same. A companion slug is not the same as a rabbit, hamster, bird, dog, or cat. Furthermore, not all animals within the same species are the same. There is tremendous diversity in their personalities even though all you may hear is “woof,” “meow,” “tweet,” or whatever it is that rabbits say besides “whats’ up doc?” Check to see if the animal matches your personality. Oh, and make sure that your cat is not really a Flerken.

Science Says Your Pet Is Good for Your Mental Health

Science Says Your Pet Is Good for Your Mental Health


By Mandy Oaklander

Being a pet in America is a plum gig. Pets are incredibly well loved: according to a 2015 Harris poll, 95% of owners think of their animal as a member of the family. About half buy them birthday presents. And it’s a two-way street. People who have pets tend to have lower blood pressure, heart rate and heart-disease risk than those who don’t. Those health boons may come from the extra exercise that playing and walking require, and the stress relief of having a steady best friend on hand.

Scientists are now digging up evidence that animals can also help improve mental health, even for people with challenging disorders. Though the studies are small, the benefits are impressive enough that clinical settings are opening their doors to animal-assisted interventions–pet therapy, in other words–used alongside conventional medicine. “It used to be one of the great no-no’s to think of an animal in a hospital,” says Alan Beck, director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University, citing the fear of causing infection. “Now, I don’t know of any major children’s hospital that doesn’t have at least some kind of animal program.”

The rise of animal therapy is backed by increasingly serious science showing that social support–a proven antidote to anxiety and loneliness–can come on four legs, not just two. Animals of many types can help calm stress, fear and anxiety in young children, the elderly and everyone in between.

More research is needed before scientists know exactly why it works and how much animal interaction is needed for the best results. But published studies show that paws have a place in medicine and in mental well-being. “The data is strong,” Beck says. “If you look at what animals do for people and how we interact with them, it’s not surprising at all.” Here’s a look some of the cutting-edge science in the field.


In one study, a stressed-out group of adults were told to pet a rabbit, a turtle or their toy forms. The toys had no effect. But stroking a living creature, whether hard-shelled or furry, relieved anxiety. It worked for people regardless of whether they initially said they liked animals.


Animals don’t have to be cuddly to help. In a 2016 study published in the journal Gerontology, elderly people who were given five crickets in a cage became less depressed after eight weeks than a control group. The act of caring for a living creature seems to make the difference.


Among the most-studied therapy animals, horses have been involved in medical treatment plans in Europe since the 1860s. Activities like grooming a horse and leading one around a pen have been shown to reduce PTSD symptoms in children and adolescents.


Animals can focus people’s attention. When people at an Alzheimer’s-disease facility dined in front of aquariums with brightly colored fish, they ate more, got better nutrition and were less prone to pacing. They were also more attentive and less lethargic.


Some research suggests that when children who struggle with reading read aloud to a trained dog and handler, they show fewer anxiety symptoms. “Their attitudes change and their skills improve,” says Lisa Freeman, director of the Tufts Institute for Human-Animal Interaction.

Guinea pigs

Animals make socializing easier for kids who find it stressful, says Maggie O’Haire of Purdue. In her study, when children with autism had a guinea pig in the classroom, they were more social with their peers, smiled and laughed more, and showed fewer signs of stress.

5 Steps for Women to Combat Burnout

5 Steps for Women to Combat Burnout


By Ellen Keithline Byrne

As an executive coach who works with women leaders, it’s not unusual for me to see the sad, worried eyes of my coaching clients as the “aha” moment hits, and they realize: “I have burnout.”

This realization often comes as a shock. Once it’s teased out and women further share their feelings of exhaustion and lack of energy for work they once loved, it becomes glaringly obvious to them. But until that point, it’s typically something they beat themselves up for, their inner voice saying, “I just need to work harder! What’s wrong with me?”

My business partners and I estimate that almost 20% of the women in our six-month leadership intensives are expressing some symptoms of burnout. What we know is that it’s insidious and can slowly creep up on you. These clients have moved past periodic times of being “stressed out” into chronic stress. This occupational phenomena clouds the mind, where a person struggles to assess their situation clearly, and they often end up beating themselves up for not being good enough.

One client, a CEO in a mid-sized insurance company, who had been truly passionate about her work, realized she was burned out. After years of tirelessly committing her time to the business, one day, she struggled to listen to the Chairman of the Board when he walked into her office, whereas in the past she looked forward to their conversations. She described it as the Charlie Brown adult voice that’s just “wah, wah, wah.” She felt exhausted when she woke up each morning, and just wanted to stay home, make soup, and watch I Love Lucy reruns.

This description is unfortunately not unusual. Our clients often have the reputation of being driven and passionate. Yet, over time, they feel overwhelmed and struggle to identify what’s wrong. Sometimes, I hear them contemplate leaving their company just to find some sense of inner peace. And sometimes, they don’t make changes until they end up in emergency rooms or with a serious health diagnosis. This can often lead to a leave of absence or termination. Successful leaders need to know what burnout looks like and get help early.

Here is what we know:

Burnout is now considered a serious work issue, as the pace and complexity of our work environments have rapidly changed. In May of 2019, the World Health Organization updated the definition of burnout as: “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” This new definition is raising the awareness of burnout and strengthening its link to work. It legitimizes the need to pay attention to these occupational symptoms and find solutions that alleviate toxic work environments. As the expert on burnout, Dr. Christina Maslach of the University of California, Berkeley, describes it as “a prolonged response to chronic interpersonal stressors on the job.”

It’s no surprise that women report higher levels of burnout. One study identified gender inequalities in the workplace as a key element that’s impacting occupational mental health. Women were found to have lower levels of decision-making authority and were often overqualified for their roles, which ultimately leads to less satisfaction at work and a sense that they have fewer career alternatives. We see this frustration all the time, and it often manifests in beating oneself up. Women often think it’s their own fault that they’re not thriving.

Our concern after decades of working with women leaders is that it’s getting worse. Here is what we recommend:

Determine right away whether you have burnout, and if so, how bad it is.
Burnout is progressive. People typically start with one or two of the following identifiers, and it usually builds from there. In Maslach’s research, she highlights three main questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you regularly physically and emotionally exhausted? Do you feel a lack of energy and/or have trouble sleeping? Do you worry excessively? Feel more edgy? Feel sad or hopeless?
  • Are you more cynical and detached than usual? Do you no longer feel joy from things that used to bring you joy? Are you less interested in socializing and are you feeling less connected to people than you once did? Are you more negative than usual? Do you see the glass as half empty?
  • Are you feeling like you’re not contributing anything meaningful, where you once were? Do you feel a sense of ineffectiveness and that all of your hard work isn’t actually accomplishing anything?

If you respond “yes” to all or most of the questions, the alarm bells should be going off. It’s time to schedule an appointment with your internist, mental health professional, or a coach. These questions — especially the last two — take the concept of normal “stress” to the next level, in terms of how it has impacted your overall mindset.

Catch it early. Awareness is the first step.
This is sometimes the hardest part. We can be tough on ourselves and are often not willing to reflect on our own behavior.

Clients will often share that colleagues and friends have expressed concern that they are not themselves or that they are doing too much. But they brush it off as just needing to work harder and smarter. If you’re hearing similar comments from colleagues or friends, take heed. Coming to terms with the idea that you are either in “crisis” or heading there soon is not easy. Examine the list above and be honest with yourself.

Get support.
Whether it’s a good friend, family member, therapist, or coach, it’s important to have someone who can challenge your thinking and give you another perspective. Once burnout has its hold on your mindset, decision making can get fuzzy. By identifying patterns and regaining clarity on priorities, you can establish better boundaries, for instance by delegating where necessary, by saying “no” to projects that do not serve you long-term, and by taking better care of yourself. These steps can help you feel a sense of progress towards relieving your symptoms.

Make your emotional and physical well-being a priority.
Put healthy eating, exercise and a good sleep routine at the top of the list. Schedule in lunch breaks and stop working at a reasonable time. Take all of your vacation. Too many companies report that employees forgo vacation time; 27.2% of paid time off went unused in 2018. And too many women tell us that they’re the first ones into the office, and the last ones out. Reframe that “work harder” message to work smarter, which includes breaks from work to stimulate the relaxation response and dissipate the stress response. It takes giving yourself permission to shift your mindset around what’s a priority and a commitment to establishing healthy coping mechanisms to combat stress.

Examine your work environment.
Burnout is a result of a mismatch between the demands of the job and the available resources. In a recent HBR article by Robin Ely and Irene Padavic, they identified that “what holds women back at work is not some unique challenge of balancing the demands of work and family but rather a general problem of overwork that prevails in contemporary corporate culture.” The current workplace mantra of “we have to do more with less” is not sustainable. With your manager or other senior leaders, review the structure of your role, the culture of the firm, and how to support an environment where everyone thrives.

For women leaders to better respond to and adapt to our changing workplaces, it’s critical that a clearer understanding of what burnout is and how it manifests is necessary. As a coach, I hope that through education, my clients will be able to catch it early, apply the coping mechanisms they’ve learned, and not end up with serious health issues. We should all be striving for workplaces where everyone thrives.

The Habits of Highly Successful People

The Habits of Highly Successful People



Forget “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

These days, gurus across the internet claim dozens of routines will put you on the path to fulfillment. In one camp, there are the evangelists of wholesome habits: Get up early, make your bed, and exercise, and you’ll inevitably encounter success. Then you have the mindfulness contingent, who says daily meditation will deliver clarity to even the most frazzled capitalists. Other habit-based programs take consistency to the extreme, suggesting eating and wearing the same things each day. If you’re skeptical of these well-intentioned suggestions, don’t kick yourself for your cynicism. It’s hard to know if any of these habits truly work for you––or anyone. That’s why we experimented on our own, surveying over 1,000 people on how successful they feel in several major life areas. We then asked them about their habits to gain a statistical view of the practices that correlate most closely with fulfillment. If you’ve wondered which habits allow other people to achieve their purpose and prosperity, you won’t want to miss our results. Read on to see how successful people consistently spend the one resource they can’t replenish: their time.

Defining success, by demographic

Before we explore any particular habits, it’s helpful to learn how people define success more specifically. After all, it’s something of an abstract concept, although most participants agreed on its major components: More than 80 percent identified happiness and freedom as essential parts of success. Fulfilling family life and good physical and mental health were also popular selections. Interestingly, a smaller percentage said success could be defined regarding professional growth, one’s job, or one’s income. Even fewer said a great sex life was an integral part of succeeding, with less than 40 percent of respondents saying this kind of passion was a part of their vision for fulfillment. Some compelling differences cropped up among men and women, however. Women were slightly more likely to emphasize freedom, family life, and physical health. Conversely, men were more likely to associate success with mental health instead. Generational contrasts included a drop off in focus on family life with each successive generation. Over 90 percent of baby boomers said family was essential to success, whereas only 75.7 percent of Gen Xers said the same. Among millennials, family life didn’t even crack the top five success characteristics.

Calling ourselves a success

In every life area we designated, baby boomers were most likely to claim success. Call them boastful, but bear in mind they’ve had more time to succeed––and appraise their experiences with more gratitude in retrospect. In many ways, younger generations were dramatically behind in self-reported success, such as in the realms of family, friendships, and mental health. Interestingly, however, millennials were more likely to call themselves successful than Gen Xers in most categories. Perhaps these findings reveal Gen Xers in the throes of a midlife crisis or the hubris of youth among the millennial crowd. Contrasts among men and women yielded interesting insights as well, with female respondents more likely to feel successful in their family lives, friendships, and relationships. Meanwhile, men had the distinct upper hand concerning mental health and stress level. In what could be interpreted as a grim indication of workplace inequalities, men were also more likely to feel successful regarding their professional growth, jobs, and incomes. Given the lingering pay gap in America, there may be good reason nearly two-thirds of women feel thwarted on the subject of earnings. Overall, however, roughly three times as many people called themselves “unsuccessful” versus “highly successful.” That statistic may speak volumes about human nature and self-esteem, but we have a more pressing question to consider: What do these folks who feel highly successful do differently?

Habits successful people share

When we considered which habits highly successful people practice to a much greater extent than unsuccessful individuals, two major themes emerged: cleanliness and healthy choices. In the category of tidy practices, we found highly successful people cleaning their cars, changing their sheets, and making their beds far more often. Some suggest completing these tasks can help us feel accomplished and in control, so we face the rest of our days with some momentum. The same could perhaps be said for healthy habits that highly successful cohort tended to practice, including exercise, taking vitamins, and resisting frozen or prepackaged meals. In addition to these habits, meditation was a common denominator among folks who felt highly successful, and notably absent from the routines of those who felt unsuccessful as well. In fact, meditation was the habit around which successful and unsuccessful people differed most in several key life categories: friendships, jobs, mental health, professional growth, and stress. Given these potential payoffs, it’s no wonder many companies are encouraging their employees to adopt meditation practices in the workplace.

Sanitize for success?

Let’s take a closer look at how cleanliness might correlate with success, comparing the frequency with which different groups tackle household chores. In every specific cleaning activity studied, those who felt the highest degree of success tidied up most often. This positive correlation continued at every level of self-professed success: Those who felt moderately successful cleaned up more often than those who felt only slightly successful, who did so more frequently than unsuccessful respondents. Sometimes, the immediacy of cleaning seemed relevant as well. Nearly two-thirds of highly successful people did the dishes right after they were done using them. Similarly, 61 percent of highly successful people folded clean laundry as soon as the dryer was finished. Then again, some orderly habits did not correlate with success according to our data. Packing unfolded clothes in one’s suitcase or sweeping dirt out of sight rather than into the trash didn’t seem to hurt anyone in the long run, nor did buying new clothes instead of doing laundry.

Maintaining the body and mind

Self-care should pay off in obvious ways: You don’t need to be a dentist to understand the benefits of flossing. But our findings indicate highly successful people were quite disciplined in this regard and feelings of success were correlated with the frequency of these self-care efforts. This connection extended to measures aimed at maintaining physical health, such as exercise and dental care regimens, but highly successful people also read and practiced meditation more often, suggesting intellectual well-being is also paramount. Successful respondents were also more likely to consume news regularly, a finding that contradicts recent research suggesting staying constantly informed can actually prove harmful. Additionally, successful people were less likely to stay up late, perhaps because so many of them are early risers with busy days ahead. On the other hand, our data demonstrate no correlation between success and going to sleep early or waking up before one’s alarm. Perhaps when it comes to beauty rest, success demands a reasonable middle ground.

Ingest for success?

In a victory for parents everywhere, breakfast really does seem to be the most important meal of the day––or at least essential to those who feel highly successful. Conversely, frozen or prepackaged meals negatively correlated with success. On other questions of consumption, however, our results were more varied. Interestingly, highly successful participants ate out less often than moderately and slightly successful peers, although unsuccessful folks dined out least of all. Similarly, highly successful people were actually less likely to conduct meal prep than moderately successful respondents, suggesting a complex relationship between this habit and success. We did find a strong connection related to groceries, however. Only a third of highly successful people tried to take as many bags in at once as possible to avoid multiple trips. Among all other groups, about half attempted this “overload” method.

Success means saving

However much we resist materialism, financial concerns arise at many points in our lives and may shape our understanding of success. We found people who identified as moderately or highly successful were quite likely to have a range of investments, especially savings and retirement accounts. Conversely, less than a third of people who felt unsuccessful had a retirement account, and only a fifth were invested in stocks. These data resonate with broader concerns about Americans’ lack of retirement savings and other assets that might support them later in life. Although some have said homeownership is no longer part and parcel of the American dream, property ownership was substantially higher among people who felt highly or moderately successful. Additionally, less than a fifth of slightly successful or unsuccessful respondents had other investments, such as an ownership stake in a business.

Healthy habits, healthy home

Perhaps we’ll never incorporate all potentially healthy habits into our lifestyles simultaneously––incremental improvement is more attainable. If our findings have revealed habits you find admirable, establish some priorities and pursue them passionately. If our data suggest anything, it’s that small actions can have sweeping implications. So set a few manageable goals for yourself and discover achievement is possible. After all, hopeful thinking may be the most important habit successful people have in common. If you’re looking to transform your home into an orderly space conducive to good habits, you don’t have to go it alone. Whether in need of painting or pest control, Porch helps homeowners connect with trusted professionals. Letting the pros handle your home-improvement hassles––now that’s a habit we can all get used to.


To compile the data above, we surveyed 1,005 people through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. The surveys all took place in March 2018. Each person was first asked to answer how often they performed certain behaviors and later asked to evaluate their success levels on a scale of 1 to 7 in various areas of their lives. Scores across all categories were averaged to identify a respondent’s overall success level. All correlations presented relating to behavior frequency, unless otherwise stated, were found to have statistical significance through ANOVA and Chi-squared analyses. Because the information we collected relies on self-reported data, it may have issues relating to selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration. Because “success” is a subjective term, we did not have an objective measurement for it and relied solely on a respondent’s appraisal of their success across several types of success.

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