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									                                         Happiness Readings

Denmark world's happiest country, survey finds
Reuters: Mon Jun 30, 2008 11:58pm EDT

WASHINGTON, June 30 (Reuters) - Denmark, with its democracy, social equality and peaceful atmosphere, is
the happiest country in the world, researchers said on Monday.

Zimbabwe, torn by political and social strife, is the least happy, while the world's richest nation, the United
States, ranks 16th.

Overall, the world is getting happier, according to the U.S. government-funded World Values Survey, done
regularly by a global network of social scientists.

It found increased happiness from 1981 to 2007 in 45 of 52 countries analyzed.

"I strongly suspect that there is a strong correlation between peace and happiness," said Ronald Inglehart, a
political scientist at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, who directed the study.

And, said Ingelhart, there is a strong correlation between happiness and democracy.

"Denmark is the happiest country in the world in our ratings," Inglehart said in an audio statement released by
the National Science Foundation, which paid for the analysis.

"Denmark is prosperous -- not the richest country in the world but it is prosperous."

Puerto Rico and Colombia also rank highly, along with Northern Ireland, Iceland, Switzerland, Ireland, the
Netherlands, Canada and Sweden.

"Though by no means the happiest country in the world, from a global perspective the United States looks
pretty good," Inglehart said. "The country is not only prosperous; it ranks relatively high in gender equality,
tolerance of ethnic and social diversity and has high levels of political freedom."

The survey, first done in 1981, has kept to two simple questions:

"Taking all things together, would you say you are very happy, rather happy, not very happy, not at all happy?"
And, "All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?"

Writing in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, Ingelhart's team said they have surveyed 350,000

"Ultimately, the most important determinant of happiness is the extent to which people have free choice in how
to live their lives," Inglehart said.

     List of ranked happiest countries by World Values Surveys 2008

This is the list of the subjective well-being in 97 countries based on reported happiness and life satisfaction,
equally weighted. The rank is stated from happiest to least happy. Negative scores indicate that a majority of the
population is unhappy/dissatisfied with life.

This list comes from the combined data from 1995 - 2007 World Values Surveys.

1. Denmark (4.24)                           34. Malaysia (2.61)                            67. Croatia (0.87)
2. Puerto Rico (4.21)                       35. West Germany (2.60)                        68. Morocco (0.87)
3. Colombia (4.18)                          36. Vietnam (2.52)                             69. India (0.85)
4. Iceland (4.15)                           37. France (2.50)                              70. Uganda (0.69)
5. North Ireland (4.13)                     38. Philippines (2.47)                         71. Zambia (0.68)
6. Ireland (4.12)                           39. Uruguay (2.43)                             72. Algeria (0.60)
7. Switzerland (3.96)                       40. Indonesia (2.37)                           73. Burkina Faso (0.60)
8. Netherlands (3.77)                       41. Chile (2.34)                               74. Egypt (0.52)
9. Canada (3.76)                            42. Dominican Republic (2.29)                  75. Slovakia (0.41)
10. Austria (3.68)                          43. Japan (2.24)                               76. Hungary (0.36)
11. El Salvador (3.67)                      44. Spain (2.16)                               77. Montenegro (0.19)
12. Malta (3.61)                            45. Israel (2.08)                              78. Tanzania (0.13)
13. Luxemburg (3.61)                        46. Italy (2.06)                               79. Azerbaijan (0.13)
14. Sweden (3.58)                           47. Portugal (2.01)                            80. Macedonia (-0.06)
15. New Zealand (3.57)                      48. Taiwan (1.83)                              81. Rwanda (-0.15)
16. U.S.A. (3.55)                           49. East Germany (1.78)                        82. Pakistan (-0.30)
17. Guatemala (3.53)                        50. Slovenia (1.77)                            83. Ethiopia (-0.30)
18. Mexico (3.52)                           51. Ghana (1.73)                               84. Estonia (-0.36)
19. Norway (3.50)                           52. Poland (1.66)                              85. Servian Bosnia (-0.45)
20. Belgium (3.40)                          53. Czech Republic (1.66)                      86. Lithuania (-0.70)
21. Britain (3.39)                          54. China (1.64)                               87. Latvia (-0.75)
22. Australia (3.26)                        55. Mali (1.62)                                88. Romania (-0.88)
23. Venezuela (3.25)                        56. Kyrgyzstan (1.59)                          89. Russia (-1.01)
24. Trinidad (3.25)                         57. Jordan (1.46)                              90. Georgia (-1.01)
25. Finland (3.24)                          58. Greece (1.45)                              91. Bulgaria (-1.09)
26. Saudi Arabia (3.17)                     59. South Africa (1.39)                        92. Iraq (-1.36)
27. Thailand (3.02)                         60. Turkey (1.27)                              93. Albania (-1.44)
28. Cyprus (2.96)                           61. Peru (1.24)                                94. Ukraine (-1.69)
29. Nigeria (2.82)                          62. South Korea (1.23)                         95. Belarus (-1.74)
30. Brazil (2.81)                           63. Hong Kong (1.16)                           96. Moldova (-1.74)
31. Singapore (2.72)                        64. Iran (1.12)                                97. Armenia (-1.80)
32. Argentina (2.69)                        65. Bangladesh (1.00)                          98. Zimbabwe (-1.92)
33. Andorra (2.64)                          66. Bosnia (0.94)

          2006 World
      Happiness Rankings
 SWLS is the Satisfaction With Life Scale based
   on subjective (self-reported) well being.
 (Diener, Emmons, Larsen & Griffin, University of Illinois, 1985)

DENMARK                 273           ST LUCIA               233           SRI LANKA                 203           ESTONIA                 170
SWITZERLAND             273           BELIZE                 230           TAJIKISTAN                203           GUINEA                  170
AUSTRIA                 260           CYPRUS                 230           VIETNAM                   203           JORDAN                  170
ICELAND                 260           ITALY                  230           IRAN                      200           SYRIA                   170
BAHAMAS                 257           MEXICO                 230           COMOROS                   197           SIERRA LEONE            167
FINLAND                 257           W. SAMOA               230           CROATIA                   197           AZERBAIJAN              163
SWEDEN                  257           SINGAPORE              230           POLAND                    197           CENT AF REP             163
BHUTAN                  253           SOLOMON ISL            230           CAPE VERDI                193           MACEDONIA               163
BRUNEI                  253           TRINID/TOBAGO          230           KAZAKHSTAN                193           TOGO                    163
CANADA                  253           ARGENTINA              227           MADAGASCAR                193           ZAMBIA                  163
IRELAND                 253           FIJI                   223           SOUTH KOREA               193           ANGOLA                  160
LUXEMBOURG              253           ISRAEL                 223           BANGLADESH                190           DJIBOUTI                160
COSTA RICA              250           MONGOLIA               223           CONGO REP.                190           EGYPT                   160
MALTA                   250           SAO TOME AND           223           GAMBIA                    190           BURKINA FASO            157
NETHERLANDS             250           EL SALVADOR            220           HUNGARY                   190           ETHIOPIA                157
ANTIGUA & BARB          247           FRANCE                 220           LIBYA                     190           LATVIA                  157
MALAYSIA                247           HONG KONG              220           SOUTH AFRICA              190           LITHUANIA               157
NEW ZEALAND             247           INDONESIA              220           CAMBODIA                  187           UGANDA                  157
NORWAY                  247           KYRGYZSTAN             220           ECUADOR                   187           ALBANIA                 153
SEYCHELLES              247           MALDIVES               220           KENYA                     187           MALAWI                  153
ST KITTS & NEVIS        247           SLOVENIA               220           LEBANON                   187           CHAD                    150
UAE                     247           TAIWAN                 220           MOROCCO                   187           IVORY COAST             150
USA                     247           TIMOR-LESTE            220           PERU                      187           NIGER                   150
VANUATU                 247           TONGA                  220           SENEGAL                   187           ERITREA                 147
VENEZUELA               247           CHILE                  217           BOLIVIA                   183           RWANDA                  147
AUSTRALIA               243           GRENADA                217           HAITI                     183           BULGARIA                143
BARBADOS                243           MAURITIUS              217           NEPAL                     183           LESOTHO                 143
BELGIUM                 243           NAMIBIA                217           NIGERIA                   183           PAKISTAN                143
DOMINICA                243           PARAGUAY               217           TANZANIA                  183           RUSSIA                  143
OMAN                    243           THAILAND               217           BENIN                     180           SWAZILAND               140
SAUDI ARABIA            243           CZECH REP              213           BOTSWANA                  180           GEORGIA                 137
SURINAME                243           PHILIPPINES            213           GUINEA-BISSAU             180           BELARUS                 133
BAHRAIN                 240           TUNISIA                213           INDIA                     180           TURKMENISTAN            133
COLUMBIA                240           UZBEKISTAN             213           LAOS                      180           ARMENIA                 123
GERMANY                 240           BRAZIL                 210           MOZAMBIQUE                180           SUDAN                   120
GUYANA                  240           CHINA                  210           PALESTINE                 180           UKRAINE                 120
HONDURAS                240           CUBA                   210           SLOVAKIA                  180           MOLDOVA                 117
KUWAIT                  240           GREECE                 210           BURMA                     177           CONGO DRC               110
PANAMA                  240           NICARAGUA              210           MALI                      177           ZIMBABWE                110
ST VINCENT              240           PAPUA N GUIN           210           MAURITANIA                177           BURUNDI                 100
UNITED KINGD            237           URUGUAY                210           TURKEY                    177
DOMINICAN REP           233           GABON                  207           ALGERIA                   173
GUATEMALA               233           GHANA                  207           EQ GUINEA                 173
JAMAICA                 233           JAPAN                  207           ROMANIA                   173
QATAR                   233           YEMEN                  207           BOSNIA & HERZE            170
SPAIN                   233           PORTUGAL               203           CAMEROON                  170
The table above gives the SWLS score for each country presented in the map. Data on SWLS is extracted from Marks, N., Abdallah, S., Simms, A,
Thompson, S. (2006). Scores have been presented from an index baseline of 100 for ease of comparison. For more information on the Marks et al
(2006) study, and the work of the NEF, follow this link:

The science of happiness            

We all want to be happy but the problem has always               It is a remarkable claim. Simply by asking people, we
been that you can't measure happiness.                           have a measure of happiness that is as good as the
                                                                 economists' measure of poverty or growth. And if
Happiness has always been seen as too vague a                    true, governments could be judged by how happy they
concept, as Lord Layard, Professor of Economics at               make us. An adviser to the Prime Minister, David
the LSE and author of "Happiness - lessons from a                Halpern, told us that within the next 10 years the
new science" points out. "There is a problem with the            government would be measured against how happy it
word happiness. When you use the word happy, it                  made everybody.
often has the sort of context of balloons floating up
into the sky or something frivolous."                            Power of happiness

Now scientists say they can actually measure                     Happiness seems to have almost magical properties.
happiness. Neuroscientists are measuring pleasure.               We have not got proof, but the science suggests it
They suggest that happiness is more than a vague                 leads to long life, health, resilience and good
concept or mood; it is real.                                     performance. Scientists work by comparing people's
                                                                 reported happiness and a host of other factors such as
Measuring happiness                                              age, sex, marital status, religion, health, income,
                                                                 unemployment and so on.
Social scientists measure happiness simply by asking
people how happy they are. It is argued that what a              In survey after survey involving huge groups of
person says about their own happiness tends to tally             people, significant correlations between happiness
with what friends or even strangers might say about              and some other factors are repeated. At the moment
them if asked the same question.                                 scientists cannot prove causation, whether for
                                                                 example people are healthy because they are happy,
Most people say they are fairly happy.                           or whether people are happy because they are healthy.

The leading American psychologist Professor Ed                   However, psychologists have been able to identify
Diener from the University of Illinois, told The                 some very strong links. According to Professor
Happiness Formula that the science of happiness is               Diener the evidence suggests that happy people live
based on one straightforward idea:                               longer than depressed people.

"It may sound silly but we ask people 'How happy are             "In one study, the difference was nine years between
you 1-7, 1-10?                                                   the happiest group and the unhappiest group, so that's
                                                                 a huge effect.
"And the interesting thing is that produces real
answers that are valid, they're not perfect but they're          "Cigarette smoking can knock a few years off your
valid and they predict all sorts of real things in their         life, three years, if you really smoke a lot, six years.
                                                                 "So nine years for happiness is a huge effect."
One type of measurement even tries to record people's
levels of happiness throughout the day wherever they             Richer but no happier
are. Ecological momentary assessment uses hand
held computers. The person being quizzed is bleeped              Happiness researchers have been monitoring people's
and then taken through a questionnaire.                          life satisfaction for decades. Yet despite all the
                                                                 massive increase in our wealth in the last 50 years our
"The measures are not perfect yet I think they are in            levels of happiness have not increased.
many ways as good as the measures economists use,"
said Professor Diener.                                           "Standard of living has increased dramatically and
                                                                 happiness has increased not at all, and in some cases

has diminished slightly," said Professor Daniel                The answer is £50,000 (or $93,000 US at 2008
Kahneman of the University of Princeton.                       exchange rates).

"There is a lot of evidence that being richer... isn't         Marriage also seems to be very important. According
making us happier"                                             to research the effect of marriage adds an average
                                                               seven years to the life of a man and something like
The research suggests that richer countries do tend to         four for a woman.
be happier than poor ones, but once you have a home,
food and clothes, then extra money does not seem to            The second vital ingredient is having meaning in life,
make people much happier. It seems that that level is          a belief in something bigger than yourself - from
after average incomes in a country top about £10,000           religion, spirituality or a philosophy of life.
($18,000 US at 2008 exchange rates) a year.
                                                               The third element is having goals embedded in your
Scientists think they know the reason why we do not            long term values that you're working for, but also that
feel happier despite all the extra money and material          you find enjoyable.
things we can buy. First, it is thought we adapt to
pleasure. We go for things which give us short bursts          Psychologists argue that we need to find fulfilment
of pleasure whether it is a chocolate bar or buying a          through having goals that are interesting to work on
new car. But it quickly wears off. Secondly, it is             and which use our strengths and abilities.
thought that we tend to see our life as judged against
other people. We compare our lot against others.               Unhappiness
Richer people do get happier when they compare
themselves against poorer people, but poorer people            However, there are also many things we experience in
are less happy if they compare up.                             life that can produce lasting unhappiness. Professor
                                                               Ed Diener identifies two key events which can have
The good news is that we can choose how much and               lasting effects. After the loss of a spouse it can take
who we compare ourselves with and about what, and              several years to regain the previous level of well-
researchers suggest we adapt less quickly to more              being. The loss of a job can affect a person for years
meaningful things such as friendship and life goals.           even they are back to work.

What makes us happy?                                           So if you are born grumpy are you always going to be
According to psychologist Professor Ed Diener there
is no one key to happiness but a set of ingredients that       The question of whether we can actually use our
are vital.                                                     knowledge of what makes us happy to lift our levels
                                                               of happiness permanently is hotly debated by
First, family and friends are crucial - the wider and          psychologists.
deeper the relationships with those around you the
better. It is even suggested that friendship can ward          According to the positive psychologist Professor
off germs. Our brains control many of the                      Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania it
mechanisms in our bodies which are responsible for             is possible to lift our biological set range of
disease. Just as stress can trigger ill health, it is          happiness, at least to some extent if we work at it.
thought that friendship and happiness can have a
protective effect. According to happiness research,            "The best you can do with positive emotion is you can
friendship has a much bigger effect on average on              get people to live at the top of their set range.
happiness than a typical person's income itself.
                                                               "So I think you've got about 10 to 15% leverage but
One economist, Professor Oswald at Warwick                     you can't take a grouch and make him giggle all the
University, has a formula to work out how much extra           time."
cash we would need to make up for not having

Searching the brain for happiness               

For thousands of years people have pursued                    behavioural psychologists since at least the beginning
happiness, but the problem has been that it has always        of the 20th century.
been seen as a kind of fuzzy concept.
                                                              Pleasure centre
But now, in a new BBC Two series called The
Happiness Formula, neuroscientists say happiness is           In studies during the 1950s psychologists James Olds
tangible and the result of brain activity - you can see       and Peter Milner working at McGill University in
it and even measure it. Dr Kringelbach is a                   Canada, found that rats would repeatedly press levers
contributor to the programme.                                 to receive tiny jolts of current injected through
                                                              electrodes implanted deep within their brains.
In November 2005 the Dalai Lama was invited to
speak at the annual meeting of the Society for                When this brain stimulation was targeted at certain
Neuroscience in Washington DC.                                areas of the brain the rats would repeatedly press the
                                                              lever - even up to 2000 times per hour.
While this event was not without controversy, his
speech was generally well received and surprised              In fact they would stop almost all other normal
many scientists with his remarkable open-                     behaviours, including feeding, drinking and sex.
mindedness, particularly concerning the validity of
neuroscientific enquiry.                                      These findings seemed to suggest that Olds and
                                                              Milner had discovered the pleasure centre in the
The Dalai Lama described a normal person's mind as            brain, and it turns out that these overlap with the
"a troublemaker" and confessed that he "still feels           regions damaged in Parkinson's disease.
anger and fear".
                                                              The main chemical aiding neural signalling in these
Meditation, he said, can help. But he was not adverse         regions is dopamine, and so it was quickly dubbed the
to other paths and volunteered himself as a patient if        brain's "pleasure chemical".
neuroscientists wanted to pursue easier ways to quell
the "troublemakers of the mind".                              Additional human studies during the 1960s by Robert
                                                              Heath at Tulane University in the US tried to take
The pursuit of happiness is a preoccupation for many          advantage of these findings in some ethically
of us and has probably been since the dawn of                 questionable experiments on mentally ill patients.
                                                              Although the researchers also found compulsive lever
Yet few of us come close to achieving this state with         pressing in some patients, it is not clear from these
any regularity.                                               patients' subjective reports that the electrodes did
                                                              indeed cause real pleasure.
And even when happiness finally descends upon us,
we often only realise it after the fact.                      Wanting and liking

The neuroscience of happiness and well-being is still         Instead, recent work by Kent Berridge, at the
in its infancy.                                               University of Michigan in the US, indicates that the
                                                              electrodes may have been activating the anatomical
So far, the focus of research has been on two related         regions that are involved in desire rather than
but perhaps somewhat distant cousins: pleasure and            pleasure.
                                                              Investigating reward systems in rats, Berridge found
Reward would seem to be central to both of these              that they have specific facial expressions for pleasant
states and so has been studied in other animals by            and nasty tasting foods.

Sugary food makes them lick their lips contentedly -
just as human infants do, whereas a bitter taste leads         Could happiness be best described as pleasure without
to a disgusted, lip-curling expression.                        desire, a state of contentment and indifference?

When Berridge manipulated the rats' dopamine levels,           Such a state is perhaps akin to the kind of bliss that
he found that their expressions remained unchanged.            Buddhists actively seek through meditation.

Berridge is therefore proposing a distinction between          If so, it is possible that neuroscientists may one day
desire and pleasure - wanting and liking - in terms of         find ways to help induce this state.
both the brain regions and the neurochemical
substances that mediate these subjective states.               We might then have the choice of a true utilitarian
                                                               society where the overall happiness can really be
The dopamine system appears to encode desire while             maximized just as the 18th century philosopher
the opioid system, which contains our own natural              Jeremy Bentham wanted.
morphine-like compounds, is closer to pleasure.
                                                               Although the question of whether such a society
It is clear, however, that rats are different from             would be desirable and pleasurable still remains to be
humans.                                                        answered.

Pleasure and desire are complex emotions in humans,            The Dalai Lama was clearly interested in the end state
and so there are still many interesting things to learn.       of happiness, rather than the means by which it is
Central to current research is a brain region called the
orbitofrontal cortex, a brain region that is                   However, he also spoke of how humans have "much
evolutionary more recently developed in humans and             conflicting emotion, much bad emotion, jealousy,
has connections to both the opioid and dopamine                anger, fear. This is our great troublemaker."
                                                               He reminded the audience of the "fundamental values
Using neuroimaging, we have found that it contains             of compassion and affection" that are "important to
regions that correlate with subjective reports of              the development of body and brain".
                                                               It would seem prudent for future research on
What can this research ultimately tell us about                happiness, pleasure and desire not to ignore this
happiness, pleasure and desire?                                compassionate plea for human dignity, while
                                                               tinkering with the very core of what makes us human.

Scientists' short-cut to happiness             

Science is beginning to find ways to control
happiness in the brain artificially.                         But the pleasure stopped when the current was
                                                             stopped and Heath eventually abandoned his work.
Since the dawn of time we have sought short-cuts to
happiness. Early man got high on psychotropic drugs.         Mainstream medicine
Alcohol has been around since the stone age.
                                                             In the last few years interest in deep brain stimulation
The designer drugs of today promise ecstasy in a pill.       has been taken up by mainstream medicine to help
Now neuroscientists are beginning to manipulate              patients with Parkinson's Disease and also to tackle
happiness in the brain.                                      acute pain.

In a series of experiments in the 1950s and 1960s            We met Robert Matthews who had had a leg
psychologists pinpointed the pleasure zones in the           amputated after an accident. Robert still suffers
brains of rats and eventually in human patients.             excruciating pain from the leg that no longer exists.

In 1954 Peter Milner and James Olds performed a              "My lowest took me so low. I couldn't even think
radical experiment on rats.                                  about myself or my family or anything. That's how far
                                                             I went. So happiness had gone."
They implanted electrodes into rats' brains, and found
that when they gave electrical brain stimulation the         An operation by Professor Tipu Aziz, consultant
rats seemed to experience pleasure and almost ecstasy        neurosurgeon at the Oxford Functional Neurosurgery
at times.                                                    Group, meant that the pain could be massively
                                                             reduced and life for Robert became bearable.
The rats could press a lever which would deliver a
small current deep into its brain.                           Professor Aziz has implanted an electrode in his brain
                                                             which can in a sense make him happier.
It was found that they would perform complex and
difficult tasks for another dose of stimulation, and         The electrode is controlled by a switch which is in his
would even press the lever up to 2,000 times an hour         chest. Richard is now free to control the voltage
to the exclusion of eating or drinking.                      delivered to his brain and thereby reduce the pain he
Olds and Milner concluded that they had discovered
the area of the brain responsible for reward.                "I used to worry about the fact of having something in
                                                             my head but now I don't look at it like that.
In the 1960s, psychiatrist Robert Heath of Tulane
University in New Orleans chose to use this same             "I mean, it works to a percentage, which gives us a
deep brain stimulation on humans.                            better way of life than what we had before."

He performed a series of experiments where he put            Future happiness
electrodes deep into his patients' brains.
                                                             So could this be an idea for the future? Morten
Bob Heath hoped to cure depression, pain, and                Kringelbach, a neuroscientist from Oxford University,
addiction.                                                   thinks it is still a long way off.

When a mild shock was administered to patients they          "The prospects of actually putting an electrode in and
felt good. When they were handed the controls they           permanently changing people's happiness, and that is
chose to press repeatedly - sometimes over a thousand        the state of contentment over time, I think the only

way that one can do that is by changing the
circumstances that people are in."                               Leading psychologist Professor Ed Diener argues
                                                                 against artificial routes to happiness.
Dr Kringelbach says it is possible to manufacture
pleasure. But the priority is to use the science to              "We do not want to create a society that's happy
alleviate pain and depression.                                   because of drugs.

But Robert Matthews was in no doubt that if he was               "Society that's locked into happiness, we still want
offered not just the chance to get rid of his pain but           people with functioning emotion systems, systems
actually to make himself feel positively happy he                that react when bad things are happening, and react
would turn his switch up to the happy level.                     when good things are happening."

"Oh definitely. Most definitely all the way. Take it all         And it is a thought echoed by Professor Paul
the way, yes. That would be a happy day, wouldn't                Salovskis, clinical psychologist at King's College
it?"                                                             London.

But films and literature have seen the idea of artificial        "It seems to me that drugs as a solution to
happiness as sinister.                                           unhappiness are rather similar to kind of, you know,
                                                                 say plastic surgery to enhance your beauty or
In the 1930s novelist Aldous Huxley wrote about it in            whatever.
his book Brave New World.
                                                                 "The quick fix is potentially on the horizon but I think
The idea of synthetic emotion is also explored in the            it will keep receding as it already has.
film The Matrix.
                                                                 "We were promised years ago that we would have the
In our opinion poll we asked whether people would                pharmacological solution to all of emotional problems
take pills that made them happy if there were no side-           - it hasn't happened."
effects. Three out of four people said "no thanks".

The health benefits of happiness                    

In the Scottish Borders they are trying out a new and              He argues people are happier if they are given more
quite unusual kind of medicine - happiness.                        control at work, live in a safe neighbourhood and
                                                                   participate in community projects.
Now it is claimed that happiness could be more
important than smoking in determining your health.                 Long life

Dr Derek Cox, Director of Public Health at Dumfries                The science of happiness is increasingly suggesting a
and Galloway NHS, suspects that for decades health                 link between happiness and health.
professionals have been missing a big trick in
improving the health of the nation.                                Andrew Steptoe, the British Heart Foundation
                                                                   Professor of Psychology at University College
"We've spent years saying that giving up smoking                   London, has found that happier people also have
could be the single most important thing that we                   greater protection against things like heart disease and
could do for the health of the nation.                             stroke.

"And yet there is mounting evidence that happiness                 "We know that stress which has bad effects on
might be at least as powerful a predictor, if not a more           biology, leads to those bad changes as far as health is
powerful predictor than some of the other lifestyle                concerned," said Mr Steptoe.
factors that we talk about in terms of cigarette
smoking, diet, physical activity and those kind of                 "What we think is happening is that happiness has the
things."                                                           opposite effect and has a protective effect on these
                                                                   same biological pathways".
Like everyone else, for years he tried to prevent ill-
health by anti-smoking and healthy lifestyle                       Research in the United States has suggested a
campaigns.                                                         possible link between happiness and long life.

But there was little change. People were dying at                  A study of nuns in Milwaukee examined the diaries of
roughly the same rates.                                            the sisters of Notre Dame when they joined back in
                                                                   the 1930s and counted the number of times they used
So he started looking into the health benefits of                  positive and negative words.
                                                                   Some were brimming with joyful thoughts. Others
"It's not just that if you're physically well you're likely        were a bit gloomy.
to be happy but actually the opposite way round," said
Dr Cox.                                                            Enough for modern-day researchers to divide the
                                                                   intake into "happy nuns" and "not so happy nuns".
"If you are happy you are likely in the future to have
less in the way of physical illness than those who are             After joining the order their lives were almost exactly
unhappy".                                                          the same - same food, same work, same routine. But
                                                                   not the same life expectancy.
Dr Cox now has an ambition to make Dumfries and
Galloway happier and healthier.                                    Among the less positive nuns, two thirds died before
                                                                   their 85th birthday. Among the happy nuns, 90%
"I'd love to make the people of Dumfries and                       were still alive.
Galloway the happiest and healthiest people in
Scotland," he said.                                                On average the happiest nuns lived about nine years
                                                                   longer than the least happy nuns.

It is a huge effect when you think that on average              avoid dwelling on negative thoughts and to find ways
smoking one packet of cigarettes a day takes three              to overcome them.
years off your life.
                                                                Because Dr Cox cannot afford the thousands of CBT
And in the UK, there is a highly acclaimed long-                therapists he would need in his area, he has started
running study into the links between your status at             training local volunteers to do the counselling for
work and how healthy you are.                                   him.

You might expect that people in the lower ranks in a            So far he claims that it has worked quite well: time
work place would have lower stress levels and                   with an amateur CBT therapist has had positive
therefore better health.                                        effects on the patients.

Surely someone who sorts the post would not be as               It is a vision which inspires Labour peer and
stressed as the high-flying exec?                               happiness evangelist Richard Layard. He is lobbying
                                                                government to employ another 10,000 therapists.
Not necessarily true according to Professor Sir
Michael Marmot and colleagues at University College             "We're talking about £1500 for a course of CBT. That
London.                                                         can change somebody's life."

Since the 1960s, they have been studying thousands              Professor Paul Salovskis, clinical psychologist at
of civil servants for an ongoing research project               King's College London, is determined to get the
called The Whitehall Study.                                     government to put more money into CBT.

They found that if you have a low status job with little        "It's a scandal actually that people cannot receive
control over what you do, you have a higher risk of             treatments which we know to be effective and indeed
cardiovascular disease.                                         the health service knows to be effective.

Happy talk                                                      "Potentially it's got colossal implications. We could
                                                                see a future where people did not suffer from severe
One of the ways in which Dr Cox has tried to increase           anxiety and depression.
happiness is by the use of a new kind of therapy.
                                                                "I don't think that's putting it too strongly. I also think
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been                    that in terms of everyday worries we are in a position
called a common sense approach to therapy.                      to give people the tools to deal with those that would
                                                                then allow them to go forward and achieve the things
Instead of a therapist lying you down on a couch and            which they want to achieve."
asking you what your relationship with your father or
mother was like, a CBT therapist aims to help you to

Happiness is smile shaped            

                                                                 For many people, the most miserable period in their
                                                                 life is their 40s.

                                                                 After that most people's levels of happiness climb.

                                                                 This graph shows average life satisfaction based on
                                                                 extensive research from the British Household
                                                                 Panel Survey between 1991 and 2003.

                                                                 It seems men are slightly happier on average than
                                                                 women in their teens, but women bounce back and
                                                                 overtake men later in life.

                                                                 Women start with lower levels of average life
                                                                 satisfaction than men.

                                                                 The low point seems to last for longer for women -
Research into happiness suggests that our levels of              throughout their 30s and 40s, only climbing once
happiness change throughout our lives.                           women reach 50.

People were asked how satisfied they are with their              Then women tend to overtake men.
                                                                 Men start slightly higher than women on average,
Most people start off happy and become                           and their lowest point is their 40s, climbing again
progressively less happy as they grow older.                     once they reach 50.

Graph source: British Household Panel Survey 1991-2003
Andrew Oswald, Department of Economics, University of Warwick and Nattavudh Powdthavee, Institute of
Education, University of London.

Staying happier for longer                    
By Professor Martin Seligman, Director, Positive Psychology Center, University of Pennsylvania

From the Buddha to modern gurus of self-help, there                        Very encouraging testimonials flooded in, citing
have been more than 100 exercises proposed which                           lasting relief from depression and increased well-
are alleged to increase lasting happiness, says                            being.
Professor Martin Seligman a contributor to BBC
Two's The Happiness Formula.                                               This is pretty far from science, however.

In strange contrast, scientific investigation until                        So I was ready to try the gold standard: random
recently thought none of these exercises would, as                         assignment, placebo controlled tests of each exercise,
there was an unchangeable and biological "set point"                       looking for lasting changes in well-being.
for happiness.
                                                                           We told people that we wanted to find out which
This suggested that our levels of happiness were                           interventions work to raise happiness and which are
largely pre-determined by our genes and our                                bogus.
upbringing, varying slightly but always returning to
our set point of happiness.                                                About 500 people soon volunteered and each person
                                                                           received a battery of tests, one simple week-long web
It also explained the annoying fact that lottery                           exercise (no human hands) and then was tested about
winners eventually revert to their customarily                             their well-being repeatedly for the next six months.
curmudgeonliness and the rosier finding that
paraplegics eventually return to almost the same                           Three exercises proved to be placebos and three
happiness level they enjoyed before their accident.                        worked well, producing lasting reductions in
                                                                           depression and lasting increases in happiness.
I have spent more than 20 years testing the effects of
various psychotherapies and drugs on depression.                           The three that worked were "three blessings" - writing
                                                                           down three things that went well today and why; "the
So when I became a positive psychologist, I first                          gratitude visit" - writing a gratitude testimonial and
explored many of these exercises and then decided to                       delivering it personally; and "using your signature
test rigorously whether any of them really increased                       strength in a new way" - taking the signature strength
happiness.                                                                 test and using your highest strength in a new way.

I began by teaching positive psychology to                                 For more information on ―signature strengths‖ and
undergraduates: each week I assigned an exercise                           other assessments, see:
along with more traditional readings.                            

I do not think I ever heard the word "life-changing"
more often in my 40 years of teaching.                                     Decreasing depression

Positive feedback                                                          We continue to test new exercises in this way, hoping
                                                                           to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Then I started teaching a six month telephone course
to 1,000 coaches, clinical psychologists, parents, and                     We looked at the effect on severe depression of doing
educators.                                                                 just the first web exercise, three blessings.

Each week I would assign one exercise and the
students would give it to their clients and carry it out

In this uncontrolled study, 94% of severely depressed          At the end of three months about 10% of the patients
people became less depressed and 92% became                    with medication or treatment as usual improved,
happier, with an average symptom relief of a                   versus 70% of the patients in positive psychotherapy.
whopping 50% over only 15 days.
                                                               Depressive symptoms were substantially reduced and
This compares very favourably with anti-depressant             happiness markedly increased.
medication and with psychotherapy.
                                                               Overall then there is good evidence that several
We then packaged six exercises in a bundle and gave            simple exercises increase happiness and decrease
them to moderately depressed students in groups.               depression.

Compared to a randomly assigned control, the                   The set point theory of well-being appears to be
exercises produced markedly lowered depression one             wrong.
year later.
                                                               While these exercises increase well being among
The results seem even stronger in the hands of a good          relatively untroubled people, there is one surprising
therapist: we gave three groups of unipolar depressed          implication for serious depression: psychotherapy
patients either medication, treatment as usual, or             traditionally is where you go to talk about your
positive psychotherapy.                                        troubles.

This consists of 12 sessions in which the exercises are        The psychotherapy of the future may also be where
mixed with skilled psychotherapy.                              you go to talk about positive emotion, your strengths
                                                               and virtues, and how to build more meaning into your

Is there a happiness formula?               

Psychologists have now come up with a formula for happiness: Pleasure + engagement + meaning = happiness.

We all know what brings us pleasure. But the trouble
is all too often it is fleeting and it just does not last.        The danger of relying on any formula is that it may
                                                                  actually make us unhappy, by putting yet more
A new school of psychology, called positive                       pressure on us to live the perfect life.
psychology, suggests that we need two other vital
ingredients if we want to achieve more lasting                    And what is more there is another problem that one
happiness.                                                        form of happiness often conflicts with other sources
                                                                  of happiness, and may even make other people
First, they suggest we need to be really engaged and              unhappy.
engrossed in what we do. In the jargon it is called
"flow".                                                           So some people argue we should not even
                                                                  contemplate trying to make ourselves happier.
We have all experienced it. It is that feeling we get
when we just do not even bother to look at the clock              A little extra happiness
because we are so into what we are doing.
                                                                  Positive psychologists counter this by saying that
Second, positive psychologists suggest we need                    their suggestions are not miracle cures, and they
meaning in our lives.                                             accept that you cannot turn a grump into a deliriously
                                                                  happy person. They maintain it is possible to make
We can get this from doing an interesting job, or                 someone a little happier, as much as 10-15%, if
working on a project we really believe in, or by doing            someone works at it.
something worthwhile.
                                                                  In his article about positive psychology Professor
While we adapt quickly to more money and material                 Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania,
possessions, it seems we adapt less quickly, if at all,           who has been described as the father of positive
to meaningful things.                                             psychology, explains some of the exercises you can
                                                                  do to make yourself happier.
Problems with the formula
                                                                  Research is now trying to test how well these
However, this simple formula hides a number of                    exercises work.
important issues.
                                                                  The exercises include disputation, which involves
It turns out you can have too much engagement and it              challenging negative thoughts and analysing whether
does not necessarily lead to more happiness.                      you need to be as negative, playing to your strengths
                                                                  and counting your blessings for the things that go well
For example, you can become engrossed in work and                 in your life.
become a workaholic and less happy. You can
experience flow in gambling but it will not                       Scientists clearly do not have all the answers. There is
necessarily make you happy.                                       as yet no simple and comprehensive formula for
The formula is not exhaustive or comprehensive.
                                                                  However, the new emphasis on human relationships,
As psychologist Ilona Boniwell of Oxford Brookes                  flow and meaning does offer an interesting insight
University points out in her article, the formula fails           into what really makes us happy, and challenges us to
to take account of contentment, something which is                think whether it might be possible to live happier
highlighted by our opinion poll carried out by GfK                lives.

The undervalued component of happiness                        

A key factor that makes us happy has been                     According to dictionary, contentment is accepting
highlighted in an opinion poll for BBC Two's The              things as they are. Another interpretation is mental or
Happiness Formula.                                            emotional satisfaction and foremost, a peace of mind.

It seems we value contentment very highly, but as             But what does it mean to have a peace of mind? Is it
psychologist Ilona Boniwell explains, it is something         about not worrying? Is it about not arguing? Is it
that many experts undervalue or ignore completely.            about having everything you want or actually not
                                                              wanting? Is it about clear conscience?
From all across the UK, 1001 people were asked by
pollsters GfK NOP what happiness meant for them.              "For me, happiness is about personal tranquillity",
Unlike other surveys, people did not have to choose           "Happiness is going to sleep peacefully and waking
their answer from a list someone had already                  up the next day", "Being at peace with the way things
prepared. Instead, they could describe what                   are going", "Happiness is when you are ok inside
happiness meant to them in their own words, without           about where you are and who you are", "Taking the
relying on already preconceived categories.                   dog for a walk".

And what the opinion poll revealed intriguingly was           These are not quotations from a book, but what
rather different from what many psychologists tell us         ordinary people think.
about happiness.
                                                              Inner peace
Happiness in lay terms emerged in six different
forms: relationships, contentment, security and               So for most of us, contentment is a mixture of these
money, health, transcendence and fulfilment.                  things, but what do they have in common?

The first one, relationships - sharing life with loved        What they have in common, it seems, is not fighting
ones, such as partners, friends, family, children,            yourself. You are content when the different parts of
grandchildren and even pets - was not exactly                 yourself make friends with each other.
                                                              Discontent, on the other hand, is the result of a
Research consistently finds that supportive social            discrepancy between what you want and what you
connections are fundamental to feeling good. In our           get.
opinion poll, 73% of people mentioned relationships
                                                              However, nobody can have everything they want.
as the only or one of their definitions of happiness.
                                                              A rich person may not have youth and a young person
So there was a pretty good agreement here.
                                                              may not have money. And even one who is both rich
Missing factor                                                and young, may be not as carefree as a hermit.

What was interesting, however, is that 56% of the             So does it mean that we can not be content?
respondents equated happiness with contentment.
                                                              Fortunately not. The trick is that what really matters
This is something psychology does not talk about              is what is going on the inside rather than the outside.
much.                                                         In other words, what we want depends on us, rather
                                                              than the situation, so by changing our perspective we
The magic happiness formula that positive                     can affect our level of contentment as much, if not
psychologists use is: pleasure + engagement +                 more, as we could do by changing the situation.
meaning = happiness. However, there is no space in
this formula for contentment. Does it mean that we            As a famous saying goes, change what you can,
are missing something?                                        accept what you cannot and have the wisdom to know
                                                              the difference.
Let us have a look at what contentment means first.

Does diversity make us unhappy?                    

It is an uncomfortable conclusion from happiness                 "Our multiculturalism which started out as a
research data perhaps - but multicultural communities            straightforward recognition of diversity became a sort
tend to be less trusting and less happy.                         of system which prized racial and ethnic difference
                                                                 above all other values and there lies the problem."
Research by the Home Office suggests that the more
ethnically diverse an area is, the less people are likely        So, if we want happy, stable communities, where
to trust each other.                                             should the balance lie between diversity and
The Commission for Racial Equality has also done
work looking at the effect of diversity on well-being.           Trevor Phillips believes getting it right is vital: "We
                                                                 need to respect people's ethnicity but also give them,
Interviewed on The Happiness Formula, the chair of               at some point in the week, an opportunity to meet and
the Commission for Racial Equality, Trevor Phillips              want to be with people with whom they have
accepts that people are happier if they are with people          something in common that isn't defined by their
like themselves.                                                 ethnicity."

"We've done work here which shows that people,                   "If we can find a moment, an idea, an activity which
frankly, when there aren't other pressures, like to live         takes us out of our ethnicity and connects us to other
within a comfort zone which is defined by racial                 people of different ethnicities and if only for an hour
sameness.                                                        in a week then I think we can crack this problem."

"People feel happier if they're with people who are              Social science is also trying to help make sense of the
like themselves. But the question is: what does "like            challenges.
themselves" mean?"
                                                                 Building bridges
Tapestry of life
                                                                 In the jargon, they refer to the factors that bind similar
To an extent, new immigrants are always seen as                  people together in groups as "bonding social capital".
outsiders and threatening. It is not necessarily a
matter of ethnicity.                                             But it is argued that happy societies also need what
                                                                 they call "bridging social capital" - strong links
The arrival of the Huguenots or the Jews into Britain            between different groups.
brought significant social tensions which have largely
disappeared.                                                     "A society that has only bonding social capital and no
                                                                 bridging social capital looks like Beirut or Belfast or
Cultural difference eventually became woven into the             Bosnia, that is tight communities but isolated from
tapestry of British life.                                        one another."

Globalisation has brought new challenges - a diversity           So says Harvard professor Robert Putnam, author of
of culture and ethnicity never seen before.                      "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of
                                                                 American Community".
There have been fierce arguments as to whether social
well-being is enhanced by celebrating difference or              He argues that working out how to grow bridging
encouraging integration, even assimilation.                      capital is the great challenge for Western society.

Trevor Phillips believes the debate has become                   "This is the crux of the problem. The kind of social
dangerously confused.                                            capital that is most important for the success of a
                                                                 modern, pluralist, multicultural democracy - the

bridging social capital - is the kind that's hardest to        who are very different, look very different and think
build.                                                         they are very different never touch, never interact."

"Therefore we've got to go about the task of creating          What is required is a sense of identity that overarches
new opportunities for people to make connections to            creed, culture or ethnic background.
people different from them.
                                                               Nation states take different views on how this might
When bonding social capital drowns bridging social             best be achieved. The French model is to have a strict
capital, conflict is inevitable.                               definition of Frenchness that, for instance, prohibits
                                                               religious head-scarves in schools.
Shared values
                                                               In the UK, citizenship ceremonies for new arrivals
Trevor Phillips believes we saw it all too clearly in          and lessons in schools are built around the ideas of
the disturbances in the Lozells area of Birmingham in          shared values including an understanding of and
the Summer of 2005.                                            respect for our democratic institutions.

A tight-knit Asian community came into conflict with           Among those values is a tolerance of diversity and
a tight-knit black community because, Phillips argues,         cultural difference.
the ethnicity that binds each community together is
stronger than the links between them.                          But it is, perhaps, in sport that the efforts to build
                                                               bridging social capital are most obvious.
"You have two communities who more or less faced
each other across a single road. They are communities          Whether it be two football teams from different local
which have high levels of internal bonding.                    communities breaking down barriers or an Olympic
                                                               squad reflecting the multi-racial reality of modern
"But actually there wasn't and is very little bridging         Western society, competitive sport is seen as an
between these two communities and I think this is a            important tool in binding together diverse nations and
perfect demonstration of what happens when people              making people happy.

Happiness and public policy               
By Lord Layard, Emeritus Professor of Economics – a contributor to The Happiness Formula broadcast on BBC Two

We have more money than ever before, yet our                      Then comes work - having it (if you want it) and
happiness levels are in decline.                                  enjoying the meaning and comradeship it can bring.

For Britain to become a happier nation, economic                  And then comes relationships with friends and
growth should cease to be the top priority of                     strangers in the street.
government, says Lord Layard, government adviser
and professor at the London School of Economics.                  Some societies are much happier than others - and
                                                                  Scandinavian countries always come out near the top.
The best society is that where the people are happiest,
and the best policy is the one that produces the                  This is largely because people trust each other more
greatest happiness. So argued the great 18th century              there than in other countries.
thinkers like Jeremy Bentham, and their admirable
views did much to inspire the social reforms of the               In Britain and the US the number of people who
century that followed.                                            believe that "most other people can be trusted" has
                                                                  halved in the last 50 years, and this reflects the
But in many cases it was difficult to apply the                   growth of an individualism which makes personal
principle because so little was known about what                  success more important than almost anything else.
makes people happy.
                                                                  These facts call for a revolution in how we think
However, the last 30 years have seen a major                      about ourselves and about how the government can
scientific revolution, and we now know much more                  help us to flourish.
about what causes happiness - using the results of
psychology and neuroscience.                                      It becomes clear that faster economic growth is not
                                                                  the most important objective for a society.
The first thing we know is that in the last 50 years
average happiness has not increased at all in Britain             We should not sacrifice human relationships nor
nor in the USA - despite massive increases in living              peace of mind for the sake of higher living standards,
standards.                                                        which will be growing anyway.

This is because above an average income of about                  This insight should affect all areas of public policy. I
£10,000 per head, richer societies are no happier than            cannot argue each proposal here, though they are
poorer societies.                                                 argued in my book on the subject.

Richer people are of course on average happier than               Let me just set down a few proposals rather boldly.
poorer people in the same society, but this is largely
because people compare their incomes with other                   The most important thing we can affect is the values
people.                                                           which our children acquire. Schools should teach
                                                                  them systematically that the secret of a happy life is
If everyone gets richer, they feel no better off.                 in giving to other people. Evidence-based
                                                                  programmes exist for doing this, and should become a
Achieving happiness                                               part of our core curriculum.

In rich societies like ours what really affects                   The least happy people in our society are people with
happiness is the quality of personal relationships.               a record of mental illness. Three-quarters of people
                                                                  with depression or hyper-anxiety receive no
Always top comes the quality of family life, or other             treatment, although psychological therapies exist
close personal relationships.

which can cure over half of these terrible cases. Such        to rich. That argument also implies redistribution to
therapies should be available free on the NHS.                the Third World.

Advertising makes people feel they need more and              Our living standards are not threatened by China or
thus makes them less happy with what they have. As            India.
in Sweden, we should ban advertising aimed at
children under 12.                                            In fact we are in a new situation for mankind where
                                                              further wealth-creation is now unnecessary for
We should stop apologising about taxes: if people pay         survival.
more tax as they work harder it will discourage us
from an even more fevered way of life, sacrificing            If we want to become still happier, we need a new
further our relationships with family and friends. We         strategy from the one pursued over the last 50 years -
should also persist with income redistribution, since         we need to put human relationships first.
an extra £1 gives more happiness to poor people than

The politics of happiness          

Conservative leader David Cameron says there is                  but we make people happier, we make communities
more to life than making money, arguing that                     more stable, we make society more cohesive'."
improving people's happiness is a key challenge for
politicians.                                                     Economics

The science of happiness poses huge questions for                The idea that politics should be about creating "the
politicians.                                                     greatest happiness of the greatest number" goes back
                                                                 to the end of the 18th century and the philosopher
Governments have succeeded in delivering greater                 Jeremy Bentham.
and greater wealth but that has not translated into
extra happiness.                                                 However, no-one could work out how to measure
                                                                 happiness, or how to weigh one person's happiness
Now research is suggesting ways in which societies               against how other people feel.
might try to maximise well-being - ideas which often
challenge some of the basic principles of modern life.           So economics, which is built on objective
                                                                 measurement, took hold instead.
Increasingly, politicians from all sides are taking
notice of the findings and discussing how they might             In the past few years figures close to government in
capture the elusive feel-good factor.                            Britain have been arguing once again that policies
                                                                 should take account of how happy - or unhappy - they
Back in 1999, Tony Blair wrote about achieving "a                make people.
better quality of life", adding: "Money isn't
everything. But in the past governments have seemed              In 2002, The Prime Minister's Strategy Unit held a
to forget this.                                                  "life satisfaction" seminar in Whitehall discussing the
                                                                 implications of a "happiness" policy.
"Success has been measured by economic growth -
GDP - alone.                                                     A few month's later, Downing Street published an
                                                                 "analytical paper" which considered how happiness
"Delivering the best possible quality of life for us all         might affect different policies including:
means more than concentrating solely on economic

"That is why sustainable development is such an
important part of this Government's programme.

"All this depends on devising new ways of assessing
how we are doing."                                                                                -life balance"

The leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron                  Higher taxes for the rich
told The Happiness Formula programme: "We should
be thinking not just what is good for putting money in           The authors were careful to say that the ideas were
people's pockets but what is good for putting joy in             not government policy, but Tony Blair's policy
people's hearts.                                                 adviser who helped write the paper, David Halpern,
                                                                 told The Happiness Formula it is inevitable that in
"When politicians are looking at issues they should be           future governments will be judged on their success in
saying to themselves 'how are we going to try and                making people happy.
make sure that we don't just make people better off

"Put it this way, if government doesn't measure it,             Do not panic though - both Mr Halpern and Professor
other people will and already are."                             Layard reckon the current tax rates are about right for
                                                                maximising happiness.
Already one government department has defined its
purpose as improving people's "health and                       Banning advertising
                                                                The science of happiness suggests advertising is a
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural                  major cause of unhappiness because it makes people
Affairs is working on a happiness index.                        feel less well-off.

Furthermore, every local authority in England and               According to Professor Layard some advertising
Wales has wide-ranging powers to promote well-                  should be banned.
                                                                "I don't see that we need to allow pictorial advertising
The Happiness Formula has been looking at how                   which conveys very little information because it
different politics would be if government tried to              makes people feel poorer."
make people happy rather than just rich.
                                                                In the remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, where
Tax makes you happy                                             government makes policy on the basis of Gross
                                                                National Happiness, most street advertising is banned
Research has suggested that one of the key reasons              - particularly when aimed at children.
why wealth has not translated into happiness is that
we tend to compare ourselves with people who are                In the UK, the National Consumer Council is
richer than we are.                                             campaigning to ban advertising to children below the
                                                                age of 10.
As a result, even though we may be better off
ourselves, we still do not get any happier.                     "We already regulate alcohol to children, we should
                                                                also regulate and I think ban advertising of junk food
If we want a happier society, so the theory goes, we            to children," said Ed Mayo, Chief Executive of the
need to reduce the gap between rich and poor.                   NCC.

And the way to do that is to redistribute wealth from           "There is no case, in terms of health or wellbeing of
the rich to the less well-off.                                  children for advertising like this."

So some close to government are now arguing that,               In fact, says Mr Mayo, the council's own research
believe it or not, taxes make us happy.                         suggests advertising to children can make them more
"We tend to think of taxes as bad," said the PM's
adviser David Halpern.                                          "Children that are more brand aware, are more
                                                                consumerist, came across as less satisfied in other
"I know it's difficult for us to believe as we take out         parts of their lives - were unhappier".
our chequebook at the end of the year, but it looks
like, at least at a certain level, taxes are likely to          Commuting less
increase the well-being of the population."
                                                                According to scientists commuting is really bad news
The leading economist Professor Richard Layard of               for happiness.
the LSE explains why: "We should try and discourage
people from comparing themselves with other people              Not only is the journey to and from work often a
... and I think the tax system can help us in that way."        pretty miserable experience in itself, it has knock-on

effects which limit the happiness of the rest of our
lives.                                                         "In my view, it's not so much necessarily for
                                                               government to say you therefore should be married,
It appears that our happiness is closely linked to what        but it's perfectly reasonable [for the government] to
researchers call our "social capital" - the sum of all         say ... if you do these you'll probably be happy, if you
our connections and trust in other people, our                 do these you'll probably be miserable, you decide."
personal family ties, our friends, and our
acquaintances.                                                 Rethinking the health service

Professor Robert Putnam of Harvard University has              Research also suggests there is a powerful link
calculated that every 10 minutes of commuting cuts             between happiness and health.
all forms of social involvement by 10% - so 10%
fewer family dinners, local club meetings, and other           It is suggested that making people happy could do
involvement.                                                   more for the health of the nation than all the exercise,
                                                               diet and anti-smoking campaigns rolled into one.
Once politicians encouraged us to "get on our bikes"
and look for work.                                             And that argues for a big re-think in the priorities of
                                                               the NHS.
But the science of happiness suggests we might be
better off staying close to our families and friends.          Policies aimed at making people happier - or at least
                                                               less unhappy - should be encouraged in an effort to
There are implications for whether government                  prevent people becoming ill in the first place.
should support communities where traditional
industries have failed.                                        One idea is to massively increase access to a
                                                               relatively new form of psychotherapy called CBT or
Questions, too, for business and individuals as to             cognitive behavioural therapy, which aims to help
whether they should move to new areas.                         people avoid dwelling on negative thoughts and find
                                                               ways to overcome them.
It is arguable that planners and politicians should try
to discourage people from living far from where they           Lord Layard, author of Happiness: lessons from a
work.                                                          new science, believes the science is so conclusive the
                                                               government should immediately employ another
Encourage marriage                                             10,000 therapists.

The science of happiness suggests marriage is so               "We're talking about for a course of CBT a thousand,
good for your well-being that it adds an average seven         £1500 with something that can change somebody's
years to the life of a man and something like four for         life.
a woman.
                                                               "It really is important that we should try and have a
To maximise happiness, it is argued, government                major nationally organised training programme for
should certainly do nothing to discourage marriage;            more therapists."
arguably it should promote it.
                                                               Making people happy
However, in Britain, any financial incentives to get
married have been taken away.                                  But just how far should a government go?

Politicians seem reluctant to make moral judgments             In Bhutan they have banned a whole series of TV
about domestic relationships.                                  channels such as wrestling and MTV. The country has
                                                               even banned plastic bags.
"The married tend to be happier," said Mr Halpern.

One reason Bhutan has been able to take such
dramatic steps is that it is run by an absolute            "But it turns out that some of the key determinates of
monarchy.                                                  what make us happy, are things over which we as
                                                           individuals have relatively little control about
In the West, if politicians, acting in the name of         prevalent levels of community safety, they're safe
happiness, were to impose bans and restrictions on         when they go out.
people's freedom, governments would be more likely
to encounter resistance.                                   "How do other people in general behave, about the
                                                           way in which our whole economy may be locked into
Some argue that the logic of happiness research            a given path.
would be the ultimate in nanny states - an argument
the Prime Minister's strategy adviser is keen to           "These are things that as individuals we can't
contradict.                                                determine, but we can determine as a society together,
                                                           and that basically means government is in the game."
"I'm sure lots of ministers would be nervous about

Should the Government Make Us Happy?                                 In Europe and elsewhere, governments are
using ideas from the new science of well-being to try to make citizens more content. Will America follow their lead?
By Ryan Blitstein May 19, 2008

Tim Kasser wants to be happy. If you live in                     methods he knows are ecologically damaging. Once
America, odds are, so do you.                                    in a while, a bitingly sarcastic comment does pop into
                                                                 his head and exit his mouth. Just the same, Kasser is
There's a crucial difference between you and Kasser,             well aware of the well-being consequences of his
though. After two decades of poring over and                     every action: Is coaching his son's soccer team a good
contributing to academic research on what makes                  way to bond with his child and volunteer for the
people happy or unhappy, anxious or depressed,                   community or another chore in a slammed schedule in
Kasser can predict what's likely to keep him content             need of breathing room? Should he fly to New York
and what isn't. He makes life choices based on those             to give a speech promoting his ideas on making
studies; he thinks if you did the same, you might end            America happier, or would it be a huge mistake,
up happier. And he thinks it's time the government               depriving him of quality time with his family (and,
helps you get happy.                                             again, impairing the environment)?

The research tells Kasser that Americans are cash-               "This is the constant background hum of my life," he
wealthy, time-poor and not as happy as they could be.            says. "There are days I wish I didn't pay attention to it
So he teaches two-thirds time at Knox College, where             all. But I'm built to ask these questions."
he's been a psychology professor since 1995, devoting
the extra nonteaching hours to research, writing,                What was once an internal monologue has broadened
personal projects and time with his wife and two sons.           far beyond Kasser's research subjects and daily
The studies say a sense of community is important to             affairs. He has haltingly begun to wonder aloud about
well-being, so he works at this tiny college bordering           what kinds of laws, and even what kinds of political
the small, western-Illinois town of Galesburg, where             systems, might make people happiest, venturing
he knows people he passes on the street and where,               outside the laboratory and classroom to assume a role
when you have a new baby, staff and faculty deliver              that once made him very uncomfortable: political
food to your house for the next two weeks. The                   activist.
literature suggests that living simply will probably
increase his feelings of contentment. So he lives on a           Kasser is among the loudest in a growing chorus of
farm eight miles from the school, raising goats,                 academics who are boldly — and, some say,
growing fruit and vegetables and taking long hikes in            prematurely — asking governments to transform the
the woods.                                                       conclusions of the maturing body of happiness
                                                                 science into real-world public policies. They're
With longish hair and a patchy beard, an untucked                pushing targeted regulations like limits on advertising
shirt hanging over his jeans, Kasser looks less like a           to children. They want welfare programs to
professor than a grad student or a gas station attendant         emphasize mental health. More generally, they hope
or, for that matter, any what-you-see-is-what-you-get            governments will begin to make decisions with an eye
Midwesterner. He's the kind of guy who will readily              toward citizens' life satisfaction. Governments in
acknowledge to the university president's wife that he           Europe and elsewhere have already put these concepts
hasn't cut his hair in months or combed it in years. It's        into practice, but even as Americans embrace the
no surprise he wrote a book that examines how                    research personally by scooping up self-help books,
materialism is hazardous to America's mental health.             happiness-oriented government in the United States
                                                                 remains far from a reality.
Kasser doesn't want to be the exemplar of the perfect,
blissful, anti-consumer life. He owns (and plays) an             Arguments over happiness and life satisfaction reach
expensive piano, and he enjoys drinking orange juice,            back to the dawn of Western moral philosophy. The
even though it travels from Florida to Illinois via              Greek philosopher Epicurus believed in a happiness

marked by the presence of pleasure and absence of               Among critiques of the American government's
pain, an early form of hedonism — though his version            obsession with GDP, a 1967 Robert Kennedy speech
was far more reserved than the modern conception,               stands out. He noted that GDP rises when there is
with its sexual ecstasy and lavish meals. Aristotle             higher air pollution and more cigarette advertising yet
wrote of the happy medium of eudaemonia (literally              neglects the strength of American marriages and the
"having a good guardian spirit"), linking the good life         intelligence of public officials. That measure of
with being a virtuous person and hypothesizing that             economic activity accounts for, Kennedy said,
life satisfaction is highest among those who balance            "neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom
momentary pleasures with meaningful work on behalf              nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our
of others. The good works/good life view influenced             devotion to our country. It measures everything, in
the Romans and early Christians, permeating Western             short, except that which makes life worthwhile."
civilization until Enlightenment thinkers made the
world safe for a more earthly happiness — and                   At the time, psychologists were unknowingly planting
hedonism — once again, even among religious                     the seeds of measures that might replace or modify
adherents.                                                      GDP. During the Eisenhower years, Abraham
                                                                Maslow expanded eudaemonistic ideas to describe a
In the United States, the founders enshrined the                hierarchy of needs, from lower physical ones, such as
"pursuit of happiness" among the inalienable rights in          food, to higher psychological desires, including the
the Declaration of Independence, though Thomas                  fruitful relationship. Among nations struggling to
Jefferson likely had a happiness of virtue, not merely          tackle famine, these higher desires might have
pleasure, in mind. Until the past few decades,                  seemed ridiculous. In booming, postwar America,
however, no simple way existed to measure happiness             they struck a chord.
— pleasurable, virtuous or other — on a large scale.
So America and other countries have turned to a                 The ideas of humanistic psychologists like Maslow
readily available measure of prosperity: money.                 were appropriated by a range of followers, including
                                                                idealistic New Agers searching for self-actualizing
The logic is simple: The more choice we have, the               transcendence. But an academic group incorporated
happier we are, and the more money we have, the                 them into a new branch of inquiry dubbed positive
more choice. The notion adheres to Adam Smith, who              psychology. Instead of studying mental illness and its
theorized that rational, self-interested actions promote        cures, the researchers measured and examined people
the good of all, in the form of material wealth.                at their psychological best, searching for insights into
Whether we're aware of or agree with the underlying             traits like creativity and resilience.
theories matters little. In the U.S., the government and
citizens use financial health as a proxy for well-being:        As positive psychology journeyed from academic
We compare our country to others based on the size              backwater to best-seller lists, its proponents began
of our gross domestic product, or GDP; listen for the           tracking subjective well-being, a scientific term for
stock market's daily ebb and flow at the top of the             what we call "happiness." They have produced a rich
newscast hour; feverishly check our bank balances               body of work describing the attributes and activities
online; and job-hop across the country for higher-              of people who say they're happiest.
salary work.
                                                                This group certainly lives well: They're more likely to
By most economic measures, we're far and away the               have stronger immune systems, live longer, earn more
world leader — in the case of GDP, triple the size of           money and stay married. To be sure, much of the
the next follower, Japan. We also work more hours               research shows only a correlation between happiness
and take fewer vacation days, however, than any                 and the good life; these people's fortunes could be
industrialized country, and one in four Americans               responsible for making them feel happy, instead of
suffers from anxiety or depression, the highest such            the other way around. Yet long-term studies have
percentage in the world, though it may be inflated by           suggested the benefits of being content: The happiest
our willingness to acknowledge mental illness.                  quartile among a group of 22-year-old nuns went on
                                                                to live about nine years longer than their peers, and

cheery college freshmen generally earned higher                  the more materialistic the person, the less likely he
incomes 19 years later. The well-being figures                   was to be happy.
represent more than just meaningless, touchy-feely
happiness scores. Those who say they're content are              Kasser hadn't exactly been searching for an
described by friends as happier, and the contented               experiment to undercut the American dream. He'd
exhibit similar physical characteristics, including              grown up in an upper-middle-class household that
greater activity in their left prefrontal cortices, the          bounced around the Midwest and the South, and he
part of the brain generally linked to positive emotion.          attended Nashville's Vanderbilt University, hardly a
                                                                 bastion of anti-consumerism, where he voted to re-
The research also describes contributors to happiness,           elect Ronald Reagan.
such as the daily activities people enjoy most (sex)
and least (commuting) and events that make them                  In fact, Kasser was more interested in the process of
happy for years (marriage) and less happy for a                  personal growth, so the materialism-happiness link
lifetime (getting laid off). It also holds a litany of           was just one among several significant results he
counterintuitive findings suggesting how people                  brought to his mentor, psychology professor Richard
might live happier lives. For example, as expected,              Ryan. The professor immediately seized on the
people who do good works often report higher                     finding, and they found similar effects in data from
subjective well-being. Yet even those pushed to                  other experiments. Materialism and mental health
"volunteer," such as in an experiment that required              formed the core of Kasser's graduate work and much
subjects to perform small acts of kindness like                  of his research since (though he studies everything
holding the door open for a stranger, have higher                from dreaming to celebrity worship). He can now
happiness levels months later.                                   confidently state that people who buy into the
                                                                 American dream of pursuing wealth and material
Unfortunately, study after study shows that humans               goods are more depressed, anxious and unhappy than
are terrible at predicting what will make them happy             those who don't.
and at making decisions that will lead to their own
contentment — especially when it comes to money.                 Many researchers have come to similar conclusions.
                                                                 Although wealthier people are clearly happier than
Sometime around 1991, Kasser ran the regression that             the poor, above a salary level of about $20,000 a year,
changed his life. Kasser, then a master's candidate in           the increase in well-being from higher income
psychology at the University of Rochester in upstate             diminishes, and after a year of receiving a higher
New York, was studying people's goals, using a                   salary, two-thirds of its psychic benefits have worn
primitive tool he'd dubbed the "aspiration index." It            off. This is especially true in rich nations, where
asked subjects about their future lives and how                  citizens, riding on a metaphorical hedonic treadmill,
important it was for them to be, for example,                    increase their aspirations as their income rises. People
financially successful or involved in an intimate                in high-income areas of the United States actually
relationship.                                                    report lower happiness than those in low-income ones
                                                                 (after statistically controlling for individual income).
After he'd collected the data, Kasser sat in front of the        Even the image of money — such as Monopoly cash
computer, searching for associations within the                  placed in a subject's view — makes people less likely
numbers. Several questions related to material goods,            to help or choose to spend time with others.
and a few asked subjects how they felt.
                                                                 "Income doesn't matter as much as you think," says
Wow, Kasser wondered, wouldn't it be cool if people              John Helliwell, an economist at the University of
who cared about money were less happy?                           British Columbia, Vancouver. "People routinely
                                                                 overestimate what they'll get from material things and
He assembled an equation, hit return and then waited.            underestimate what they'll get from social
The result: a significantly negative correlation. After
taking into account all of a subject's aspiration scores,

Some have criticized this happiness research as just           image problems to violent behavior to hyper-
quantifying ideas that seem obvious. Nevertheless,             sexualization. It was his very first protest.
few Americans have incorporated the conclusions
into their lives; if they had, our GDP per person              Kasser's actions that day violated an unwritten rule of
wouldn't have tripled since World War II.                      his field. Psychology professors are to conduct
"One of the things I find most annoying is people              experiments, publish their data widely and cautiously
saying, ‗Of course, that's common sense,'"                     offer opinions when asked — not walk the streets
Swarthmore College psychology professor Barry                  shouting rebukes at major American corporations.
Schwartz says. "Well, it's common sense that stable            "As a scientist, I'm trained to be objective and hand
family relationships, close ties to communities and            over policy options to the policymakers. I'm trained
friends and meaningful work are significant                    not to get into this kind of stuff," Kasser says.
contributors to happiness. Fine. No earthshaking
insights there. Then why are so many people doing              He had never planned to become an activist. As he
everything they can to sacrifice close relationships           was writing The High Price of Materialism the year
and giving up the chance to do meaningful work, in             before, he struggled through the final chapter, which
order to have a house with another 2,000 square                offered solutions. Telling people what to do made him
feet?"                                                         feel uncomfortable. Yet his research attracted
                                                               countless calls and e-mails — from sustainability-
Though there's disagreement over figures, subjective           oriented conference organizers, looking for someone
well-being levels have remained stagnant or declined           with a Ph.D. after his name to lend gravitas to their
slightly in the United States since the 1970s. Among           ideas, or reporters, asking him what to do about the
Americans who reached 35 years of age in the 1950s,            problems his research highlighted. Kasser had a
2 percent had experienced depression. Of those who             choice: Tell them to go ask someone else or read and
reached 35 in the 1990s, 14 percent had suffered the           research enough to give thoughtful answers and talks.
blues. The U.S. is an extreme case of the Easterlin            Gradually, he began to choose the latter. By 2007, he
Paradox, named for University of Southern California           was publishing papers on the psychological costs of
economist Richard Easterlin, who demonstrated in the           living under American capitalism.
early 1970s that citizens of rich countries are happier
than poor ones, but as countries gain in wealth,               "I feel like I've been pushed into it, to be honest," he
happiness levels don't increase. We are richer than            says. "Somebody needed to say it, and I'm in a
ever, but it doesn't seem to make us feel better.              position to say it."
                                                               Though few in the field are as outspoken as Kasser,
In the fall of 2001, Kasser walked a picket line               many are calling for policies that emphasize
outside the Grand Hyatt hotel in New York City.                happiness. They don't agree on a broad policy
Inside the building, the advertising industry was              platform, but there are several common themes. Most
handing out Golden Marble Awards for marketing to              important is the belief that subjective well-being
kids. The Stop Commercial Exploitation of Children             research, though far from perfect, offers solid data on
coalition was holding a counterconference and                  ways to help citizens. "We have a good idea about the
lunchtime protest.                                             things that matter," Schwartz says. "Even getting it a
                                                               little wrong by going with what psychology currently
Kasser, then a 35-year-old professor, held a sign and          knows is a lot better than what we're doing now,
yelled chants lambasting ads aimed at kids. The                which is definitely getting it very wrong."
young organization had asked Kasser to speak and
offered to pay his way to New York. He didn't know             As a first step, many theorists favor tracking citizens'
the group's leaders, but he was passionate about the           happiness. In a 2004 paper called "Beyond Money:
issue; he had little question that the more advertising        Toward an Economy of Well-Being," positive
and marketing messages children viewed, the more               psychology patriarchs Edward Diener of the
damage to their psychosocial growth and                        University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and Martin
development, in the form of everything from body               Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania
                                                               synthesized decades of research to argue that the time

had come for the United States and other wealthy                Psychologists have little luck gaining the ears of
nations to stop concentrating solely on material                government officials, who mistrust the fuzzy social
wealth and to directly examine how happy their                  science of what people think, sense and feel (except
citizens are. It helped spark dozens of well-known              when it comes to campaigns and speeches).
professors worldwide to campaign for adding                     Economists, on the other hand, offer hard data on
subjective well-being indicators to national accounts.          what people do — known as "revealed preferences"
                                                                — and are more often welcome in the halls of power.
Using such information seems relatively                         The happiness economics subfield has already
uncontroversial: Targeted life-satisfaction polling             attracted major researchers, including Nobel Prize
might help local governments more accurately weigh              winner Daniel Kahneman. Of 465 economic journal
the costs and benefits of siting airports or public             articles published between 1960 and 2006 with
parks. And economists have translated and adapted               "happiness," "life satisfaction" or "well-being" in the
psychology research, making direct comparisons by               title, 61 percent were published after 2000, according
putting dollar values on life events, activities and            to an analysis by Andrew Clark of the Paris School of
environmental factors. For example, one study                   Economics.
estimated that the difference between happiness levels
in Swiss municipalities with the most referenda, or             Ironically, such money-focused research into well-
local direct votes, and those with the least was                being has helped convince governments and
roughly equivalent to that of doubling a person's               transnational bodies to take the psychologists' ideas to
salary level. Comprehensive, long-term research on              heart — in many rich countries but not in the United
individuals might also prove beneficial, helping                States.
people make decisions — such as accepting a higher-
paying job with a longer commute — that might                   Decades ago, when the tiny south Asian Kingdom of
affect their happiness.                                         Bhutan announced a focus on "gross national
                                                                happiness," it was dismissed as an odd scheme by a
"We could make more informed choices if we knew                 backward developing country. But similar ideas are
how things have panned out for people like us who               edging into the mainstream in much of the world:
made the same choice 10 years ago," said Erasmus                Even the staid Organisation for Economic Co-
University, Rotterdam professor Ruut Veenhoven,                 operation and Development, which includes most of
editor of the Journal of Happiness Studies. "States             the world's wealthiest states, hosted a "Beyond GDP"
that really care about the happiness of citizens should         conference in November. Ireland and New Zealand
finance such research."                                         have begun to take account of their citizens' social
                                                                cohesion and stress, and in January, French President
Over time, government officials may use the                     Nicolas Sarkozy announced that two Nobel Prize
knowledge acquired through happiness research to                winners, Joseph Stiglitz and Armatya Sen, would lead
make decisions of their own, in a more sophisticated            a commission to develop a happiness indicator for his
version of poll-tested politics. If social relationships        country.
and working fewer hours per week actually make us
happier — and many psychologists are willing to                 In the Western world, the United Kingdom is doing
stake their reputations on that claim — mandatory               more than any other country in the way of happiness
vacation laws or investment in more efficient                   policy, partly thanks to the efforts of Lord Richard
transportation might allow people more control of               Layard, a politician and economics professor who
their time. If happy people are more productive, and if         wrote Happiness: Lessons From a New Science, a
happiness is as much as 40 percent under our control,           virtual blueprint for happiness by government, and
as University of Southern California professor Sonja            the New Economics Foundation, an activist think-
Lyubomirsky argues in her book, The How of                      tank focused on happiness and the environment.
Happiness, cognitive behavioral therapy or emotional            Some of Layard's more radical ideas, such as using
resilience programs might prove more than worth the             government funds to train 10,000 cognitive
investment in the long term.                                    behavioral therapists, have yet to gain traction. But
                                                                England has spent millions of pounds on well-being

advisory commissions, and while issues like health              J. Steven Landefeld, director of the Commerce
and ecology are part of the term "well-being,"                  Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis, supports
happiness is near the center of the well-being                  adding happiness measurements as a satellite to the
conversation. At least one prime ministerial adviser            official economic and GDP measures — he just
has spoken publicly in favor of Layard's proposal to            doesn't think his department is the place to do it.
raise taxes to encourage people to work less and                Federal, state and local entities already fund millions
spend more time with their families.                            of dollars of programs aimed at non-economic well-
                                                                being, from Fourth of July fireworks to biking trails.
A nascent program called the Local Wellbeing Project            But serious attention to government programs
aims to put Layard's words into action. A partnership           promoting happiness seems nonexistent.
between the professor, the nonprofit Young
Foundation and the British government's                         "Maybe in a decade," Diener says.
Improvement and Development Agency, the three-
year project is a social welfare program with                   Everyone in the field, and every skeptical outsider,
happiness as a main goal.                                       has a theory of why American research hasn't
                                                                translated into policy. The critics cite one chief
The project is working with three local authorities in          reason: There just isn't enough solid science available
the United Kingdom — Hertfordshire, Manchester                  to support such programs. Darrin McMahon, the
and South Tyneside — to set up a series of                      Florida State University professor who wrote
interventions. Along with standard big-government               Happiness: A History, questions whether 40-odd
fare like job-training programs, these include                  years of experiments have really turned up something
emotional resilience classes to help adolescents face           more valuable than the last four millennia of
psychological obstacles, befriending initiatives to             philosophical inquiry. "There's no doubt that a good
reduce isolation and depression among seniors and               deal of research coming out of this is useful, and I
programs that focus on recognizing acts of kindness             know they've made every attempt to be rigorous," he
in the community to create a sense of neighborhood              says. "Yet they're all claiming objectivity, all
and shared place.                                               claiming to have a single magical key to orchestrate
                                                                all policies around, and that hasn't proven to be the
Although Young Foundation leaders aren't nearly                 case."
ready to claim success, some encouraging evidence is
coming out of South Tyneside, a northern town that              Some high-profile, pro-happiness publications have
fell victim to harsh industrial decline in the 1980s and        even undermined their own movement, such as when
where the majority of residents live in neighborhoods           the New Economics Foundation's 2006 Happy Planet
among the most deprived in England. The Local                   Index placed narco-state Colombia at No. 2 on its list.
Wellbeing Project there has made an impact: The                 And for all of GDP's failings as a measure of
number of participants in one of its "positive                  prosperity, the populations of countries with the
parenting" programs tripled last year. And an                   highest GDP, including the U.S., are among the
informal study measuring South Tyneside's progress              healthiest and happiest in the world. A few recent
quoted a young adult's verdict on the apprenticeship            studies have pointed to stronger links between
program: "Before youth choice, all I did was sit in the         national wealth and subjective well-being,
house and watch TV. Now I feel really good about                undermining longstanding confidence in the Easterlin
myself and know that I can be the same as everybody             Paradox among some economists. Happiness policy
else."                                                          skeptics like the Cato Institute's Will Wilkinson say
                                                                Easterlin's logic is faulty — it's not that people aren't
Despite its research prowess, the U.S. government               getting happier as they get wealthier but that they're
hasn't done much to pursue happiness as a policy. A             adjusting their expectations upward.
recent Senate subcommittee hearing on adding well-
being indicators and other measures to the calculation          Arguably the most knowledgeable nonscientist in the
of GDP was attended by one senator — North                      United States on happiness and public policy,
Dakota's Byron Dorgan, who had organized the event.             Wilkinson has emerged as a cogent critic of the

nascent movement. It's not hard to see why. His free-           consumption would be damaging to those in power,
market beliefs clash directly with almost everything            and powerful entities are unlikely to cede their turf.
the mostly leftist happiness professors propose.
"When people look at happiness data," Wilkinson                 Take Kasser's campaign to ban marketing to children,
says, "they're more likely to see their own ideology            one of the U.S. happiness policy battles he views as
reflected back at them."                                        winnable. When he visited Illinois' congressional
                                                                staffers in 2005 to plead his case, they told him it was
There aren't many happiness science professors                  a noble but politically untenable idea. There was little
focused on boosting church attendance, which                    grassroots support to overcome potential lobbying
correlates with subjective well-being, Wilkinson                pressure from a $15 billion-plus industry looking to
notes, or fewer worker protection laws (another                 protect its bottom line.
correlate). And after controlling for other variables,
he says, no correlation seems to exist between more             The research was clear. But so were the politics.
generous social welfare systems and happiness levels.
                                                                Kasser tells the story of his legislative adventure
Nevertheless, Wilkinson's most powerful arguments               while eating a veggie dog, sitting at the lunch counter
against the policies that have been enacted in Europe           of Coney Island, a straight-out-of-the-1950s soda
and proposed in the U.S. are less factual than                  fountain up the street from his office. Behind him is a
philosophical. If scientists can prove that mindful             pinball machine you can play for a nickel, and vintage
meditation or marriage instruction makes people                 Coca-Cola signs, clocks and promotional materials
happier, he says, the proper response is to get the             line the walls. But the community feeling Kasser
word out and let people choose — not to spend public            craves isn't found only in small towns like Galesburg.
money on tax breaks or government programs that
encourage people to patronize meditation and                    As he has traveled the country, visiting conferences
marriage classes. "It offends my sensibility. Here's            and making speeches, he's met many kindred spirits
some expert working for the government who's going              and discovered pockets of passionate grassroots
to tell you how to run your life and make you do                interest. Several cities, including Boston, keep track
certain things. I want to leave in people's own hands           of well-being indicators on frequent contributors to
the decisions about their own happiness," he says.              happiness, such as civic engagement and commuting
                                                                times. Nonprofits like the Templeton Foundation have
Though most Americans are not as conservative as                funded positive psychology research, and
Wilkinson, attitudes about government intervention              corporations, including the clothing retailer
are likely at the root of the split between America and         Patagonia, have brought in happiness researchers as
Europe on happiness-by-government. Even in the EU,              advisers to help boost performance. Many companies,
happiness-oriented policy is in its infancy, often a            Microsoft among them, have tried to increase worker
secondary conversation alongside issues like                    efficiency by getting employees into "flow," the
unemployment. And the U.S. government does make                 condition of intense happiness, focus and productivity
paternalistic, values-oriented decisions, such as giving        studied by positive psychology researcher Mihály
tax breaks to religious groups and homeowners. Yet              Csíkszentmihályi. The Center for a New American
people living in, or governing, countries with                  Dream, a Washington, D.C., organization focused on
nationalized health care and massive welfare systems            such issues as sustainable consumption, is in
seem more open to happiness policy interventions                discussions with the New Economics Foundation
than the free-market-leaning United States.                     about integrating happiness into its advocacy
Kasser and many allies offer a more cynical analysis,
asserting that government institutions and                      Still, there is no real U.S. hub for happiness policy.
corporations are preventing change. There's no anti-
happiness conspiracy, per se — it's just that policies          "Most of the people I know are an issue away from
focused on social goods at the expense of                       happiness," Kasser said in a telephone interview.
                                                                "They're pushing on things I think could potentially

increase happiness but not taking happiness as the               and programs that give them more time with their
main mover." To Kasser, that's not necessarily a bad             families and let them live less stressed-out lives.
thing. Though most Americans want to be happy, he's
well aware of their aversion to a Big Brother figure             What Kasser is hoping for, eventually, is a revolution
mandating policies to increase personal happiness.               of values about what is important in life, from Main
                                                                 Street to Wall Street to K Street. His views may
In fact, Kasser doesn't really see himself as a                  contradict everything many Americans believe in and
"happiness" researcher. He's still interested, he says,          the choices most of us make. Yet vast cultural change
in what's he's been studying since graduate school:              on issues from civil rights to child labor laws has
personal growth and development, which, the data                 occurred in the past, and Kasser has seen mini-
just happen to tell him, are hindered by both                    breakthroughs on his pet issues, such as America's
overconsumption and time poverty. His other political            recent, rapid adoption of compact fluorescent light
passions, such as an emphasis on ecological                      bulbs to save energy.
sustainability, can be seen in the context of allowing
future generations and other species to thrive.                  He alternates between pessimism and optimism,
                                                                 worry about where the country is headed and hope in
"I don't believe governments can make people happy,              our capacity to adapt. But he will sacrifice his time --
but I do believe governments can remove institutions             and a bit of happiness -- to keep pushing his message
which make it difficult for people to pursue                     out. "I believe my work has social importance --
happiness," he says.                                             maybe I'm kidding myself," he says. "There's a part of
                                                                 me that believes if a politician came forth with this
Those institutions range from marketers who make                 core set of ideas and presented them, they'd have
Americans more materialistic to workplaces that                  some legs."
discourage flexible hours. Kasser doesn't favor fiats
that force people to live a certain way, just regulations

―But even if we act to erase material poverty, there is another greater task, it is to confront the
poverty of satisfaction - purpose and dignity - that afflicts us all. Too much and for too long,
we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere
accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars
a year, but that Gross National Product - if we judge the United States of America by that - that
Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear
our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who
break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in
chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police
to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television
programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national
product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of
their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the
intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our
wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our
devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life
worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are
U. S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy on March 18, 1968 at the University of Kansas


―The material abundance of which we hear so much does not diminish that indictment. We
must say today, as [Governor Floyd B] Olson did then [in 1933], that there has been a ‗failure
of government and our social system to function in the interests of the common happiness of the
Minnesota Governor Wendell Anderson, Inaugural Address, 1971

Does happiness live in cyberspace?                       

Is it possible that we can find friendship, fulfilment           Cyber communities
and contentment on the internet?                                 However, all is not lost. Research in the UK has
                                                                 shown that people who log on to the internet tend to
Almost two-thirds of all adults now log on to the web.           have more friends than those who do not.
We spend more and more of our time staring at
computer screens.                                                Professor Putnam says the key is in mixing the real
                                                                 and virtual experience.
The question is whether this behaviour is driving
human beings apart or bringing us together.                      "Using the internet to make new connections that you
                                                                 then meet in real life - that's very positive."
Will the internet make the world a happier or less
happy place?                                                     The huge growth in e-mail, blogs, message boards
                                                                 and messenger services has created a host of new
The social scientist Robert Putnam is celebrated for             social networks which defy geography.
his work in measuring the decline in what he calls
"social capital" in the United States.                           Teenagers, in particular, increasingly keep in touch
                                                                 with friends and acquaintances every time they log on
His work has proved that people in America spend                 but they are also forging new relationships with
more time alone and less time with friends and                   people who may share an interest but live on the other
family. So what does he think of the internet?                   side of the world.

"I think the jury is still out on whether the internet is        A recent innovation is the creation of virtual worlds
going to be a kind of nifty telephone, that it is some           which promise an entire social life in cyberspace.
device that we use for making connections with other
real people that we know in other contexts, or a nifty           Second Life is an internet community with a
television, that is yet one more screen in front of              population of more than 100,000 real people.
which we sit more or less passively."
                                                                 Each resident controls a three-dimensional puppet
Scientists know human contact is critical to                     called an avatar which reflects their personality.
happiness, but technology can push it out of our lives.
                                                                 They can then indulge in a wide range of social
Television, believes Professor Putnam, is one of the             activities - parties, dancing classes, discussions
greatest sources of unhappiness in the US because it             groups, shows.
is essentially a solitary activity which displaces the
opportunity for social interaction.                              The avatars can be programmed to exhibit a range of
                                                                 human responses - sympathy, anger, amusement.
What about cyberspace?
                                                                 Could this be the answer to social isolation and
"I'm sceptical of a purely virtual community - that is           loneliness in the real world - a thriving social life
the idea you can be best friends with someone that               through the click of a mouse?
you don't even know and you don't even know
whether they're the person they pretend to be because            The 'real world' online
they're behind some screen name."
                                                                 Aleks Krotoski, a video games expert, says the
                                                                 internet offers new possibilities: "These virtual spaces
                                                                 are capable of creating and engendering happiness
                                                                 between people.

"There's so much socially in these places now that it           I always prefer to communicate all the people
is no longer just a person sitting in front of the              S Kugananthan, Jaffna, Sri Lanka
computer zoned out and going off into the
                                                                Internet is like smoking. Once you get addicted you
"It's about finding other people and interacting with           need to take a puff every now and then. The more
them. It's very much about a place to go to events,             addicted the more puffs. This is probably a decently
meet people, to hang out, to do ridiculous things and           good addiction. More people are completely addicted
just to chat."                                                  to cell phones and that has serious bad effects in
                                                                several ways.
Ms Krotoski argues that these games show how the                Mikko Toivonen, Helsinki, Finland
internet could develop in the future.

"I can imagine that this kind of thing is what the              I think the internet is wonderful. Without it I would
internet is going to be like in the future. Instead of          never have discovered the wonderful sport of cricket.
just being simple static pages, it will be like a 3-            Now I listen to Henry Blofeld and it helps me perfect
dimensional space.                                              my English. I have also made many friends on the
                                                                internet. We meet to discuss cricket and other
"These aren't places that are just swords and sorcery           wonderful English activities.
and people wandering around with Orks. These are                Micco Tearcino, London, UK
places that actually look very much like the real
                                                                The Internet puts all individuals on an equal footing,
Have you found happiness through the internet?                  and allows us to approach the ideals that we would
                                                                like to have achieved in our lives. There is the
Your comments:                                                  inevitable downside of abuse. Nevertheless, I revel at
                                                                the reality of not having to commute and to file
Cyberspace is a pale imitation of real life because it's        papers as I had to before I discovered the web!
such a limited interface. Text, voice, maybe cartoony           Dr S Banerji, Mumbai, India
graphics are no match for face to face. But that
interface is going to get better every decade. A fully
virtual lifestyle as rewarding as real contact is only a        I agree it is a bit tricky to make friends in cyberspace
matter of time.                                                 but I have found it most useful to find people I knew
David Bofinger, Sydney, Australia (but the whole                in far away places and to stay in touch with my
point is it doesn't matter)                                     extended family and friends. The internet has taken
                                                                the "goodbye" away from us since we are always in
                                                                touch. Our email addresses are universal. You can
The internet's a wonderfully positive thing, as it              never lose touch with anyone any longer. That is
allows people with shared interests to connect and is,          reason enough to be happy.
at least for now, the only remaining bastion of free            Hamid Khawaja, Lahore, Pakistan
speech. I love the net and feel almost like it's an
extension of my own brain!
Chandra, London, England                                        It is true that we can get to meet wonderful people on
                                                                the internet. It is true that one day these people can
                                                                cease to be virtual entities and materialise into very
My wife's leaving me for someone she met in                     concrete persons. It is also true that, if you are lucky
cyberspace, so I guess it has its downsides as well.            enough, they can become the dearest friends of all.
Peter, Bristol                                                  (Here a very personal thanks to all the scientists and
                                                                technicians who made this precious tool turn out to be
                                                                usable.) But what is amazing is that sometimes you

can end up having a gripping discussion - or a bitter           home computers. I am happy. If people live in their
argument - with somebody you don't know at all;                 virtual reality, they will they be too unfit to walk in
somebody you have never seen in your life;                      the mountains, and there will be a lot more space for
somebody whose name sometimes remains shrouded                  me!
in mystery.                                                     Anthony Lee, Derby
Siganus Sutor, Mauritius

                                                                As a player of online games I think the internet is just
I have met some wonderful people from all over the              another medium for meeting new people. I can
world thanks to the internet, all of whom I have had            honestly say that I have met some great friends who I
the honour of meeting in person. Long distance                  continue to speak with, e-mail and text on a regular
relationships certainly can't replace other                     basis. It doesn't matter to me that we have never met
relationships, but that rule has always applied with or         or that they are in a different part of the country or
without the internet aspect. The internet is just one of        even the world. Online games, and the internet, just
many ways to find likeminded people, and if the                 provide us with a different environment to forge these
relationship develops enough to transform into a                bonds. It doesn't make them any less real or valid.
"real" friendship, what is wrong with that?                     Sarah, Sheffield, UK
Nina, Brooklyn, NY, USA

                                                                My son, based in Worcestershire, met a girl in South
I met my boyfriend on the internet and since we met             Africa whilst doing some research online. After six
both our lives have changed, we were both single and            months of online dating including endless games of
finding it hard to meet potential partners just by going        chess and meeting her family and friends during a
out, we both have a great social life, have similar             link up to a party in SA, he finally made the journey
interests and love each other dearly, and I can                 to meet her. They married 6 months later in South
honestly say, since we met I am living my life to the           Africa and she joined him at university in England a
full.                                                           few months later. I find it amazing that he found his
Sharon Adams, West London,                                      perfect partner (she shares his love of fishing,
                                                                camping, travel and sport) thousands of miles away
                                                                from what started out as an argument in a chat room.
I have been online for about 8 years now, and I must            We feel so privileged to have such a lovely young
say it is quite addictive. I have been in various online        woman as part of our family.
communities, and I have now transformed from                    Anne Bathurst, Malvern, Worcs
meeting people in person to meeting them online.
Some of the online people I have spoken to, I have
also met in person. It is rather geeky when we meet             I think that we take advantage of the fact that we are
up, but at least we have the same things in common,             living in the sci-fi future from our parents' comics and
so we get on really well. I met my partner on the               television shows. We have SO many ways to
Internet and we now live together and have a                    communicate with everyone everywhere and almost
beautiful baby boy. Life is good and I'm so glad my             instantaneously. "Community" is just a word attached
mum let us have 56k dial-up 8 years ago! Of course I            to most neighbourhoods to make it sounds friendly
have Broadband now.                                             when in actuality the most interaction with your
Gemma Tevendale, Kent, England                                  neighbour is a simple wave of "hello" as you walk
                                                                into your home. Community on the internet involves
                                                                anywhere from 10-10,000 people all networked and
I am a cybercynic! Brave New World is almost here.              ready to be a contributor to that community
Internet Cyberworlds exist. Children can be cloned.             Christina, Austin, TX, USA
We can shop, work and entertain ourselves on our

'20/20' Friday: What Makes People Happy?                          

The pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human endeavor             unless they think those things are gonna make them
— it seems as if human beings are hardwired to                       somewhat happy, and so we had developed in our culture,
contemplate, chase and cherish this complex and often                like all cultures, a strong belief that children are a strong
elusive emotion. Americans place tremendous value on                 source of happiness," said Gilbert. "The data suggests
this pursuit; after all, it's a primary feature of the U.S.          otherwise. The data don't suggest that children make you
Constitution [No, sorry ABC News, it‘s the Declaration of            miserable, but they suggest that, by in large, it's a wash.
Independence. But the Constitution does mention ―general             Children have very little effect, it appears, on their parents'
welfare‖… ].                                                         day-to-day happiness."

America is the land of the happy hour, the Happy Meal,               Several studies also suggest marriages are happier without
and the smiley face. Happiness committees are popping up             kids. Additionally, despite the high divorce rate in the
across corporate America while positive psychology has               United States, married people remain happier than single
become the most popular course on campus and a best-                 people, which explains why so many divorcees get
selling topic in bookstores.                                         remarried.

But while the universal search is indisputable, actually             The Money Mirage and Living Purposefully
defining the what, where, when and how of happiness is a
far more complicated quest — one that has produced                   Theyer Willis, the author of "Navigating the Dark Side of
conflicting answers.                                                 Wealth" and heir to the enormous Georgia-Pacific Timber
                                                                     fortune, will testify to that fact. Raised in a life of leisure
Can happiness be measured, studied and nurtured? After a             and privilege, Willis by her mid-30s found herself isolated
decade of brain scans and global surveys, new science says           and miserable with no sense of purpose.
yes, and shows that there are six fundamental theories
about this important emotion.                                        "Having a fulfilling, meaningful life and being happy
                                                                     doesn't have to do with what we have," she said. "It has to
Future Happiness Is Unpredictable                                    do with how we live our lives."

According to Harvard professor and author of "Stumbling              Willis now counsels families that are very rich and very
on Happiness," Daniel Gilbert, most of our attempts to               sad. One of the strongest messages she imparts to her
predict future happiness are erroneous.                              clients: find meaningful work.

"There are two fundamental problems with predicting how              Though he is far from a millionaire, Sean Aiken can relate
you're going to feel in the future," Gilbert said. "First,           to that advice. He is on his way toward working 52 jobs in
imagination can fail you. It can play tricks. The future you         52 weeks as part of a yearlong quest to find his bliss. On
imagine is not always the future in which you're going to            his Web site Aiken chronicles his rapidly growing resume,
find yourself. Second, society gives us some myths about             which includes everything from brew master, dairy farmer,
sources of happiness. Everyone from our grandmother to               and bungee-jumping instructor to exterminator, stock
our bartender to the taxi driver to Dear Abby has some               trader, and veterinarian.
prescription for the happy life. Turns out that if you submit
these to scientific analysis, some of these prescriptions are        Not What You Do, but Who You Do It With
right, but some of them are dead wrong."
                                                                     Aiken's breadth of experience has instilled in him the third
Society Often Tricks Us                                              fundamental -- it's not what you do, it's who you do it with.
                                                                     "I have realized that you could have the best or worst job
Not only do society and our imagination confuse our                  in the world, it is the people you work with that are going
pursuit, our genes also play a heavy role. Gilbert claims            to make it a positive or negative work environment," he
genes are particularly influential in proving the phrase             said.
"bundles of joy" to be a bit of a misnomer.
"Our genes tell us that if we procreate we'll be happy, and          Positive psychologists break down the work force into
one of the ways they perpetuate themselves is by getting us          those with jobs, those with careers and those with callings.
to do their bidding. Now usually people won't do things              Those who follow their calling are happiest, but right

behind them are those who use sheer will to turn a job into         be destructive; many chess masters have spiraled into
a calling.                                                          despair after beating all challengers. But the most
                                                                    satisfying endeavors are those that benefit others.
"Positive Paul" Hintersteiner is a perfect example; he's
happy, which is amazing when you consider he is a New               Charlie Todd understands that kind of satisfaction. He
York City cab driver. For 12 hours a day he fights some of          finds flow and spreads joy by shocking complete strangers.
the world's worst traffic with deals with some of the               "I try to do things that are pranks, but while often pranks
world's most stressed-out people. And yet he takes it upon          are about humiliating someone, I try to do things that are
himself to brighten the day of everyone he meets; he tells          about making people happy, making someone's day, giving
corny jokes and hands out thank-you cards asking                    someone an awesome story to tell."
passengers to remember his optimism when their days get
rough.                                                              Todd is the founder of a group called Improv Everywhere
                                                                    whose Mission Statement is to "cause scenes of chaos and
Finding 'Flow'                                                      joy in public places." They are a New York based comedy
                                                                    troupe devoted to staging elaborate stunts, or what Todd
If a positive outlook provides one level of happiness, the          likes to call "missions." An annual Improv Everywhere
fifth fundamental takes you even higher. If you can find an         Mission is their "No Pants Subway Ride" where every
activity you love, you can find "flow." Conceptualized by           January several "agents" ride their subway in their
psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the 1970s and               underwear. They pretend not to know each other, and a
commonly referred to with terms such as "in the zone," or           few stops later, a man boards -- selling pants. Other
"in the groove," flow is that transcendent state when a             subway missions included a fake marriage proposal, where
person becomes so engaged and focused in their passion,             Todd and his co-conspirators recruited random strangers
they lose all sense of themselves. It could come from a             on the subway to help pop the question, a surprise birthday
million different activities -- knitting, teaching, surfing,        party, and an annual haunted Halloween train.
singing, speed chess, speed walking, playing an
instrument, or playing solitaire.                                   Socializing = Joy

For Jonas Gerard, an abstract painter and sculptor based in         Improv Everywhere doesn't limit themselves to
Asheville, North Carolina, it comes with a brush, paint and         underground transit -- they use all of New York City as
canvas. "When I am experiencing flow, I am really not in            their stage; from taking over the window space in a large
charge, I am allowing the flow to come through me and I             commercial building on Union Square Park to organizing a
am allowing the energy to direct my life … all flow is              giant game of twister with 800 strangers on the lower
about allowing this energy and right here in the studio it's        Manhattan waterfront, Todd's troupe forces strangers to
creative energy. I call it Creative Energy with a capital C         interact with themselves and their city in unexpected and
and capital E. Because it's a very spiritual experience.            comical ways.
When that flows, when that is flowing I can't stop it."
                                                                    "I just love that moment because something that is unusual
Asheville was recently named the happiest place in                  might scare an individual, but when you commiserate with
America by journalist Eric Weiner in his novel "The                 other people around and realize there are other people who
Geography of Bliss." That may help Gerard attain a                  are also experiencing this it becomes fun and funny." It
constant level of happiness, but he insists flow has nothing        may seem silly or frivolous, but it represents the sixth and
to do with external circumstances.                                  final fundamental, as summed up by Gilbert; "If you could
                                                                    only know one thing to understand human beings it would
"I have had horrible tooth aches recently, I am redoing my          be this; human beings are social animals. Almost every
whole mouth with all kinds of artificial teeth and the pain         one of our greatest sources of joy is a social source of joy,
is horrible, and I come to my studio and the pain goes              something about our interaction with or relationship with
away, I forget about eating, I forget about sleeping, I             another person."
forget about all things when I am in this, like you call, a
flow," he said. Researchers have learned that flow can also

AP/MTV Poll: Happiness for America's Young
People Often Means Family Ties, Faith, Belonging
The Associated Press:

                                                                  sex might lead to more happiness in the moment, but
So you're between the ages of 13 and 24. What makes               not in general.
you happy? A worried, weary parent might imagine
the answer to sound something like this: Sex, drugs, a            From the body to the soul: Close to half say religion
little rock 'n' roll. Maybe some cash, or at least the car        and spirituality are very important. And more than
keys. Turns out the real answer is quite different.               half say they believe there is a higher power that has
Spending time with family was the top answer to that              an influence over things that make them happy.
open-ended question, according to an extensive                    Beyond religion, simply belonging to an organized
survey more than 100 questions asked of 1,280 people              religious group makes people happier.
ages 13-24 conducted by The Associated Press and
MTV on the nature of happiness among America's                    And parents, here's some more for you: Most young
young people.                                                     people in school say it makes them happy.
                                                                  Overwhelmingly, young people think marriage would
Next was spending time with friends, followed by                  make them happy and want to be married some day.
time with a significant other. And even better for                Most also want to have kids.
parents: Nearly three-quarters of young people say
their relationship with their parents makes them                  Finally, when asked to name their heroes, nearly half
happy.                                                            of respondents mentioned one or both of their parents.
                                                                  The winner, by a nose: Mom.
"They're my foundation," says Kristiana St. John, 17,
a high-school student from Queens in New York.                    HAPPINESS IS ...
"My mom tells me that even if I do something stupid,
she's still going to love me no matter what. Just                 "...two kinds of ice cream," according to the song
knowing that makes me feel very happy and blessed."               from "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." John
                                                                  Lennon, more darkly, described it as a warm gun. A
Other results are more disconcerting. While most                  much more typical description comes from Stacy
young people are happy overall with the way their                 Rosales, a 23-year-old recent college graduate, who
lives are going, there are racial differences: the poll           calls it "just a general stress-free feeling where I'm
shows whites to be happier, across economic                       not really worried about anything. THAT makes me
categories, than blacks and Hispanics. A lot of young             happy."
people feel stress, particularly those from the middle
class, and females more than males.                               For Chad Fiedler, 17, it's "just waking up in the
                                                                  morning and looking forward to what I'm going to be
You might think money would be clearly tied to a                  doing that day." And for Esohe Roland, a 14 year old
general sense of happiness. But almost no one said                from Nashville, it's "playing trumpet in my school
"money" when asked what makes them happy, though                  band."
people with the highest family incomes are generally
happier with life. However, having highly educated                However you express, define or feel it, 65 percent of
parents is a stronger predictor of happiness than                 those surveyed say they're happy with the way things
income.                                                           are going for them right now.

And sex? Yes, we were getting to that. Being sexually             WE ARE FAMILY:
active actually leads to less happiness among 13-17
year olds, according to the survey. If you're 18 to 24,           When asked what one thing makes them most happy,
                                                                  20 percent mentioned spending time with family more

than anything else. About three-quarters 73 percent           "I'm going to college next year," says Fiedler, who
said their relationship with their parents makes them         will attend Drexel University in Philadelphia. "Not
happy. After family, it was relationships with friends        the cheapest thing nowadays. Money isn't the most
that people mentioned most.                                   important thing, but if something happens, it can turn
                                                              into it."
"It's good news to hear young people being realistic
about what really makes them happy," says                     STRESSES, FEARS:
psychologist Jean Twenge, author of "Generation
Me" and a professor at San Diego State University.            Young people in this survey had a 10 percent higher
"Research has shown us that relationships are the             stress rate than adults did in a 2006 AP-Ipsos poll. For
single greatest source of happiness."                         ages 13 to 17, school is the greatest source of stress.
                                                              For those in the 18-24 range, it's jobs and financial
Also confirming existing research, Twenge says, is            matters.
the finding that children of divorced parents are
somewhat less likely to be happy. Among 13-17 year            Only 29 percent feel very safe traveling, and 25
olds, 64 percent of those with parents still together         percent very safe from terror attacks. Still, those
said they wake up happy, compared to 47 percent of            interviewed said the fear of terror interfered very little
those with divorced parents.                                  with their lives.

FIRST COMES LOVE, THEN COMES...:                              DRUGS AND ALCOHOL:

Overall, romantic relationships are a source of               Alcohol users are slightly less happy than those who
happiness but being in one doesn't necessarily lead to        don't drink. The differences are more remarkable
greater happiness with life in general.                       among 13-17 year olds; just 40 percent of those who
                                                              drank in the last seven days reported being happy
"It would be nice, but where I am right now is, I want        with life, versus 68 percent of those who didn't. And
to take care of myself," says Rosales. "Before you can        49 percent of illegal drug users reported being happy
be in a committed relationship you have to know who           with life, compared with 66 percent of those who
you are and what you really want."                            didn't use drugs.

Eventually, though, marriage is a goal for most young         RACIAL DIVIDE:
people, with 92 percent saying they either definitely
or probably want to get married.                              While 72 percent of whites say they're happy with life
                                                              in general, just 56 percent of blacks and 51 percent of
"I don't want to be one of those career                       Hispanics say that. And 66 percent of whites were
businesswomen who just doesn't ever settle down,"             happy at the moment the interview began, compared
says St. John, the New York high school student.              with 57 percent of minorities.

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY:                                          SUSTENANCE FOR THE SOUL:

Money may make the world go around, but when                  "I just like believing in something greater than me
asked what one thing makes them happiest, almost              and everybody else," St. John, who attends a Catholic
nobody in the poll mentioned money or anything                school, says of her commitment to religion. "When I
material. Still, money does play a role in happiness.         pray, sometimes it just makes me feel better, if I'm
                                                              freaking out about things."
Those who can't afford to buy many of the things they
want are less happy with life in general. Just under          Those for whom religion and spirituality plays a
half of young people think they'd be happier if they          bigger role tend to be happier, according to the poll.
had more money, while the same percentage (49                 More than half 55 percent say it is either a very
percent) say they'd be just as happy.

important part of life or the single most important
thing in their lives.                                         THE CRYSTAL BALL:

I NEED A HERO:                                                Will young people grow up to be happy adults?
                                                              Overall they're optimistic: Sixty-two percent think
Oprah Winfrey? Michael Jordan? Hillary Clinton?               they'll be happier in the future than they are now.
Tiger Woods? All those names came up when people              (Those over 18 are more optimistic.) But many
were asked about heroes. Of public figures, Martin            anticipate a more difficult life than their parents had.
Luther King, Jr. got the most mentions. But nearly
half mentioned one of their parents, with mothers             "I think a lot about my kids and what their lives are
ranking higher (29 percent) than fathers (21 percent.)        going to be like," says Fiedler. "There may be wars
                                                              going on, who knows. I just have a feeling it's going
"My parents came here from the Philippines in the             to be harder for the future generation to be happy."
'70s," says Rosales. "They raised a family and got to
where they are from scratch. My mother's now the              The AP-MTV poll was conducted by Knowledge Networks Inc. from
                                                              April 16 to 23, and involved online interviews with 1,280 people aged
director of a hospital. I admire them both so much."          13 to 24. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3
                                                              percentage points.
"My mother is a pastor, and she's my role model,"
                                                              See more info on the poll here:
says Esohe, the 14 year old in Nashville. "She's so
giving." Blacks and Hispanics were more likely than 
whites to name their mothers.

Also mentioned: God (more than 10 percent),         
teachers (nearly 5 percent); and members of the
military, policemen and firefighters.

Path to true happiness 'revealed?'              

Experts believe they have found the essential                 During the series, they take 50 volunteers from
ingredients to make a person's life happier.                  Slough, with the aim of planting the "seeds of
                                                              happiness" amongst this core group who will then
In an unusual three-month experiment, six specialists         spread their cheer to others in a ripple effect.
from a variety of disciplines worked to improve the
happiness levels of a typical UK town.                        Dr Stevens explained: "The volunteers will take their
                                                              newfound skills and attitudes out into the community,
The experts tried and tested 10 simple measures in the        and in this way we will begin to change the
quest for happiness.                                          psychological climate of Slough."

They found successful strategies included nurturing a         Based on best knowledge and research, the team came
plant, smiling at strangers and cutting television            up with a 10-point plan for happiness.
viewing by a half.
                                                              The experts measured the happiness levels of the
A four-part observational documentary series,                 Slough volunteers before, during and after the end of
Making Slough Happy, beginning on BBC Two on                  the project to assess if their methods were effective.
Tuesday, follows the team and their progress.
                                                              Throughout their experiment, the expert team faced
The happiness team includes psychologist Dr Richard           the challenge of selling their science to a potentially
Stevens, psychotherapist Brett Kahr, work place               skeptical public, unprepared for their unconventional
specialists Jessica Pryce-Jones and Philippa                  approach - from dancing in a supermarket aisle, to a
Chapman, social entrepreneur Andrew Mawson OBE                spot of graveyard therapy and tree hugging.
and Richard Reeves, whose expertise spans
philosophy, public policy and economics.

             The 10 Steps to Happiness
              Plant something and nurture it
              Count your blessings - at least five - at the end of each day
              Take time to talk - have an hour-long conversation with a loved one each week
              Phone a friend whom you have not spoken to for a while and arrange to meet up
              Give yourself a treat every day and take the time to really enjoy it
              Have a good laugh at least once a day
              Get physical - exercise for half an hour three times a week
              Smile at and/or say hello to a stranger at least once each day
              Cut your TV viewing by half
              Spread some kindness - do a good turn for someone every day

                                        Happiness Videos
What is Happiness (2:26)
The Recipe for Happiness (8:07)
The Power of Happiness (10:40)
What Really Motivates Us? (2:06)
The Politics of Happiness (10:27)
Bhutan‘s Happiness Formula (8:39)
Think Yourself Happy (3:13)

Report on World Values Survey:

Eric Weiner on the Video Network:

Morley Safer of CBS 60 Minutes on Denmark as the Happiest Place:

ABC 20/20 on Denmark and Happiness:

                                         Happiness Links

World Database of Happiness:

World Happiness Map:

A More Complicated Happiness Formula:

Ten Steps to Happiness:

Just for fun – fake smiles:

University of Pennsylvania Authentic Happiness Questionnaires:

Eric Weiner‘s Website:

Jefferson‘s Pursuit of Happiness:


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