A Dark Side of Happiness? How, When, and Why Happiness Is Not Always Good

Perspect Psychol Sci. 2011 May;6(3):222-33. doi: 10.1177/1745691611406927.


Happiness is generally considered a source of good outcomes. Research has highlighted the ways in which happiness facilitates the pursuit of important goals, contributes to vital social bonds, broadens people's scope of attention, and increases well-being and psychological health. However, is happiness always a good thing? This review suggests that the pursuit and experience of happiness might sometimes lead to negative outcomes. We focus on four questions regarding this purported "dark side" of happiness. First, is there a wrong degree of happiness? Second, is there a wrong time for happiness? Third, are there wrong ways to pursue happiness? Fourth, are there wrong types of happiness? Cumulatively, these lines of research suggest that although happiness is often highly beneficial, it may not be beneficial at every level, in every context, for every reason, and in every variety.

Keywords: emotion; happiness; mania; well-being.

Publication types

  • Review