Among the participants, people who were considered
wise by others also spontaneously expressed feelings of gratitude
more frequently than others, Austrian researchers report.
"Wisdom is quite strongly related to gratitude," study author Judith
Glück, of Alpen-Adria Universität Klagenfurt, wrote in an email to
Reuters Health. "Wiser individuals are more grateful than others,
and they are grateful for different things than others," she said.
Although considerable research has explored the nature of wisdom and
of gratitude, there is little examining the connection between the
two, Glück and her co-investigator Susanne König write in the
Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social
To investigate the relationship, the psychologists devised two small
For the first study, they used newspaper and radio ads to solicit
names of people considered to be wise. Of those nominated, 47 men
and women, aged 60 years on average, agreed to participate. For
comparison the study also included a random sample of 47 more adults
who were similar in age and education.
All the participants were subsequently interviewed about their most
difficult and best life events, as well as their most important life
Overall, 29 participants (31 percent) expressed gratitude to God, to
other people or for the experience itself when they were interviewed
about their most difficult life events, such as the death of a loved
one, illness, divorce or war experiences.
Twenty participants (21 percent) expressed feelings of gratitude
when asked about their best life events.
Such sentiments of gratitude were more frequently expressed by the
people who had been nominated as wise, the researchers note.
Forty-seven percent of wise nominees versus 15 percent of the
comparison group expressed gratitude, particularly relating to their
current feelings about difficult times in their lives.
Similarly, 38 percent of the wise adults mentioned gratitude when
describing their best life events, versus 4 percent of the
A 76-year-old man nominated as wise, for example, was grateful for
"a new life" after surviving a heart attack. "Because of this new
life, I have new lessons to learn, and I have started to see life in
a different way," he said.
Another wise nominee, an 81-year-old woman, expressed gratitude as
she reflected on her best life events, saying, "I can only thank
God, that my life went as it did."
Likewise, a 38-year-old man, also considered wise, was grateful for
the experience of being dumped by his girlfriend. "I am very
grateful that she ditched me back then, because otherwise my private
life would have gone in a completely different direction."
This gratitude among wise individuals, even for negative experiences
"suggests that they integrate difficult experiences into their life
story as something through which they had grown," Glueck said.
"In terms of quality of life, the findings probably imply that
living a good life involves an awareness of the good things in one's
life, the resources and strengths that one has developed," she
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In general, all the participants in the first study were most
grateful for their family of origin, including their parents and
siblings, their own children, their health, occupation, wealth and
for other people, such as friends and colleagues.
Mark Baker, executive director of La Vie Counseling Centers in
Pasadena, California, said his experience in psychotherapy has
taught him "that those people who are able to be grateful during
difficult circumstances learn more in their lives."
"We learn much more from our failures than our successes," he told
Reuters Health in an email. "This produces greater wisdom," said
Baker, a clinical psychologist and author of "Jesus, the greatest
therapist who ever lived."
In the second study, the researchers investigated whether the first
study's findings would hold among university students whose wisdom
and gratitude were assessed via standardized psychological tests,
rather than by nominations or interviews.
Despite the different methods and study group, wisdom was again
linked to higher levels of gratitude, Glück and König report. Among
the 443 students in the study, those who scored highest in wisdom
also scored higher on measurements of their sense and frequency of
These young adults, aged 28 years on average, were also most
grateful for their family of origin as well as for other people and
In both studies, women scored higher in gratitude than men and also
expressed gratitude spontaneously during interviews more often than
men — findings that Baker thinks may indicate a gender bias in the
When asked what they were thankful for, however, women and men had
similar responses, the study authors note. This suggests "men and
women might differ less in their experienced gratitude than in their
readiness to spontaneously talk about gratitude," they write.
Glück and König conclude in their report, "Cultivating the
experience and expression of gratitude may be conducive to dealing
with the demands of life in a wise way, and in this sense, to living
a good life."
Journals of Gerontology, Series B:
Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, online Dec. 10,
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