Researchers from University of Arizona, our (southern) backyard, have discovered that the kinds of conversations you have with others can be a good indication of whether you’re happy or not.

UA psychological scientists Matthias Mehl, Shannon Holleran, and Shelby Clark, along with Simine Vazire of Washington University in St. Louis, found that people who have meaningful conversations are more likely to be generally happy. Those who  reported high levels of well-being also tended to have conversations more frequently, according to the study that was published in the journal Psycological Science.

The conversations don’t have to be about existential angst, international affairs, or other weighty topics — but the researchers differentiated the substantial conversations that signal connection from those characterized by superficial small talk and light chatter that are found in many social situations, Mehl said.

How did they discover the link? They equipped 79 college students with recording devices, and then sifted through more than 23,000 conversation snippets that occurred  over four day’s time. The people who had scored happiest on psychological tests had twice as many meaningful conversations as the unhappiest.

While it doesn’t prove cause-and-effect, it’s an attention-getting connection that raises "the Interesting  possibility that happiness can be increased by facilitating substantive conversations," Mehl said.

We see it as one more indication of the importance of authentic conversations.