Does misery love company? An experimental investigation

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8 February 2021

The conventional wisdom summarized in the adage `misery loves company,’ suggests that suering can be made easier to bear if it is also shared by others. Given increasing interest in subjective well-being and happiness as constituents of national wealth and priorities in policy-making and organizational management, we empirically investigate the validity of this phenomenon in order to explore whether it may be possible to mitigate decreases in subjective well-being simply by leveraging social comparison. We implement an experimental survey designed to gauge the suitability of this strategy on a representative sample of approximately 2000 U.S. residents. Our results indicate that, while this hypothesis is indeed borne out among certain populations within the sample, we nd stronger and more widespread support for the opposite phenomenon, suggesting rather that `happiness hates company.’ These novel ndings can inform policy interventions aiming to enhance well-being and point to promising avenues for further work.