July 23, 2009
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Four current and former University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) students traveled to Florence, Italy, to present their research correlating levels of happiness and health at the ninth Conference of the International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies (ISQOLS) July 19-23.
UAB senior economics major Jennifer Ghandhi of Huntsville, junior biology major Lauren Nolen of Hoover and 2009 graduates Shannon Nolen of Hoover and Kristen Williams of Huntsville completed two studies correlating levels of happiness and personal impressions of health while undergraduate students during the 2008-09 academic year.
The conference, held every 18 months, traditionally plays host to full-time academics and professional researchers. Erik Angner, Ph.D., assistant professor of philosophy in the School of Arts and Humanities with a joint appointment to the UAB School of Business as an assistant professor of economics, said in his experience "it is extremely rare to have undergraduates invited to present their work at ISQOLS.
"We submitted the students' research for consideration without including their ages," Angner said. "It is not clear that the students' ages would have influenced the choice to invite them, but it is clear that the students were asked to present solely on the merits of their hard work and professionalism in carrying out their research."
Both quality-of-life studies relied on a data set that recorded more than 100 personal variables among 383 Alabama residents age 50 and older.
Williams and Ghandhi's research revealed that people living with health conditions that disrupt daily functioning are significantly less happy than those who have none.
The second study, conducted by the Nolens, who are sisters, associated personal satisfaction with health-care quality with happiness: Patients who are dissatisfied with their quality of health care are approximately twice as likely to be unhappy as their counterparts.
"I chose UAB because of the unique opportunities for undergraduates to do in-depth research," Shannon Nolen said. "I never would have dreamed that those opportunities would lead to a trip to Italy and a chance to present in front of leading international researchers."
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