The pursuit of happiness

226happiness

August 18, 2011

When Julie Greengard found out she would be researching happiness on co-opwith the World Health Organization (WHO) in Switzerland, she was overjoyed. Naturally.“I’ll happily research that,” the fourth-year human services major quipped.

As a research assistant in the WHO’s health informatics and statistics department, Greengard scoured articles and global studies on happiness in older adults and the relationship between health and happiness. She also researched and developed presentations on different ways of measuring happiness and how factors such as wellbeing, satisfaction and quality of life are defined on a global level.

“There is an increasing elderly population now, and we need to look at ways to improve their health,” said Greengard, whose work will support future WHO policies related to health and happiness. “Hopefully, we can also find ways to help the younger population now to make their older years healthier as well as happier.”

Reading about happiness all day long inspired Greengard to make a humanitarian contribution. After learning that elderly people’s lives can be improved by becoming more social, for example, she began volunteering at a nursing home.

As Greengard put it, “This co-op changed my outlook on life. People often don’t think about the connections between health and happiness.”

On an previous co-op experience with the local nonprofit research and consulting firm Root Cause, Greengard examined potential improvements to cafeteria food in the Boston Public Schools system. In the future, she would like to work closely at the community level on health issues such as obesity.

“I want to be close to the people I’m helping,” she said.