Zodiac signs irrelevant to psychological well-being, research confirms

A recent study set out to investigate whether the Western zodiac signs have any impact on various aspects of subjective well-being. Contrary to popular astrological beliefs, the research found no significant evidence linking zodiac signs to happiness, financial satisfaction, marital satisfaction, or overall health. The study has been published in the scientific journal Kyklos.

Astrology has long suggested that the positions of celestial bodies at the time of one’s birth influence personality traits and life outcomes. Despite skepticism from the scientific community, astrology remains widely popular, with about 30% of Americans expressing belief in astrological influences. Previous studies attempting to validate or debunk these claims have often faced criticism for their small sample sizes and methodological weaknesses.

In his new study, ​Mohsen Joshanloo of Keimyung University and the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Wellbeing Science aimed to address these issues by using a large, nationally representative sample and robust statistical methods to examine whether zodiac signs truly affect subjective well-being. He utilized data from the General Social Survey (GSS), a large, nationally representative survey of American adults.

This survey, conducted periodically since 1972, gathers extensive information on a wide range of topics, including attitudes, behaviors, and opinions of U.S. residents. For his study, Joshanloo focused on data from the four most recent waves of the GSS, specifically from the years 2016, 2018, 2021, and 2022, encompassing responses from 12,791 participants.

The sample was diverse, with an average age of around 50 years and a slight majority of female respondents (55%). Zodiac signs were derived from participants’ self-reported birth dates. Joshanloo analyzed eight key outcome variables related to well-being: general happiness, depressive symptoms, psychological distress, work satisfaction, financial satisfaction, life excitement, general health, and marital happiness.

Joshanloo employed a combination of statistical methods to ensure robust and reliable results. The primary method used was analysis of covariance (ANCOVA), which allows for the comparison of group means while controlling for the effects of other variables such as age, gender, and education. By including these covariates, the study aimed to isolate the unique effect of zodiac signs on the various well-being outcomes. For additional rigor, Joshanloo also conducted analysis of variance (ANOVA) without covariates and nonparametric Kruskal-Wallis tests to account for potential non-normal data distributions.

For seven out of the eight well-being outcomes, there was no statistically significant effect of zodiac signs. These outcomes included general happiness, depressive symptoms, psychological distress, work satisfaction, life excitement, general health, and marital happiness. The only exception was financial dissatisfaction, where a statistically significant effect was found. However, the effect size for this finding was negligible, indicating that the practical significance was minimal.

To further examine the robustness of his findings, Joshanloo conducted a post hoc analysis. He created a random variable and compared its predictive power to that of zodiac signs for the well-being outcomes. The results showed no significant differences between the predictive abilities of the zodiac signs and the random variable. This strongly suggested that zodiac signs do not meaningfully predict well-being, and any observed effects were likely due to chance.

The researcher explained that “the post hoc analysis revealed that the predictive power of zodiac signs is statistically indistinguishable from a randomly generated categorical variable. These results indicate that consulting astrological signs tells us just as little about a person’s level of well-being as simply putting them into a category based on a coin flip or rolling dice.”

Joshanloo’s study provides compelling evidence against the popular belief that zodiac signs influence various aspects of well-being. Despite the widespread cultural and historical significance of astrology, his findings align with previous research that has generally failed to support astrological claims. The negligible effect sizes across all outcomes indicate that knowing someone’s zodiac sign does not offer any meaningful insight into their levels of happiness, health, or satisfaction in different life domains.

“These findings underscore the urgent need to increase public awareness of the lack of scientific evidence supporting astrological beliefs through robust public education initiatives,” Joshanloo concluded. “Such initiatives can play a pivotal role in promoting scientific literacy and critical thinking skills, equipping individuals with the rational tools to make informed decisions and challenge pseudoscientific beliefs that lack empirical support.”

“In addition, the pernicious potential of astrological stereotypes to negatively influence perceptions of self and others should also be considered. Multidisciplinary stakeholders (e.g., psychologists, educators, and policy-makers) must work together to educate the public about the risks associated with astrological stereotypes and to promote a more evidence-based understanding of human personality and well-being.”

The study, “The sun’s position at birth is unrelated to subjective well-being: Debunking astrological claims,” was published May 27, 2024.

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