The Pursuit of Happiness, Stress and Temporo-mandibular Disorders

Daniel Marcus, Eunju Hwang

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Mismanaging the pursuit of happiness causes negative psychological effects such as stress and disappointment. The resultant stress often manifests itself as psychological and physical health problems. We explore the problems of measuring happiness according to materialistic wealth and demonstrate that misinterpreting happiness can lead to a stress inducing pursuit. The happiness that human beings pursue is often material-based hedonism whereas eudaimonic happiness has been shown to be a by-product of the pursuit of meaningful activities. Pursuing a predefined happiness, the failure to achieve it and the resistance to it can create stress induced psychosomatic health problems; temporomandibular disorders (TMD) are one such example. Masticatory myofascial pain syndrome is a form of TMD that has a strong association to psychological stress. In this paper the research on TMD associated facial pain across different socioeconomic status (SES) groups is utilized to compare an objective, stress related physiological disorder with happiness data. We also discuss how the pressures of pursuing socially determined aesthetic happiness such as conforming to society’s expectations of smile and facial aesthetics can drive people to make surgical or orthodontic changes. This review proposes that pursuing happiness has the propensity to cause not only psychological stress but also negative behaviors. We aim to encourage further scientific research that will help to clarify this philosophical pursuit.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-67
Number of pages16
JournalHealth, Culture and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • happiness
  • stress
  • socioeconomic status (SES) groups
  • temporomandibular disorders (TMD)
  • dental aesthetics


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