Understanding the key determinants of people’s life satisfaction will suggest policies for how best to reduce misery and promote wellbeing. This column discusses evidence from survey data on Australia, Britain, Germany, and the US which indicate that the things that matter most are people’s social relationships and their mental and physical health; and that the best predictor of an adult’s life satisfaction is their emotional health as a child. The authors call for a new focus for public policy: not ‘wealth creation’ but ‘wellbeing creation’.
Andrew Clark, Sarah Fleche, Richard Layard, Nattavudh Powdthavee, George Ward, 12 December 2016
Anne Case, Angus Deaton, 18 July 2015
High suicide rates are often cited as evidence of social failure. Despite this, some countries and regions that do very well in terms of happiness have among the highest suicide rates. This column explores this paradox using global data on suicide and self-reported life satisfaction. Although the paradox is confirmed for Eastern European and wealthy countries, inconsistent patterns emerge when other demographic factors are taken into account. This might reflect the empirical difficulty of explaining suicide, but might also be indicative of the unreliability of self-reports of happiness.
Daniel Benjamin, Samantha Cunningham, Ori Heffetz, Miles Kimball, Nichole Szembrot, 02 January 2015
There is growing interest in alternative measures of national wellbeing, such as happiness or life satisfaction. This column argues that a small number of survey questions are unlikely to capture all the aspects of wellbeing that matter to people. Using a stated-preference survey, the authors find several aspects of wellbeing to be important that are not commonly included in wellbeing surveys, such as those related to family, values, and security. This approach could be used to provide weights for wellbeing indices.
Angus Deaton, Arthur Stone, 04 March 2014
Study after study has shown that those who live with children are less satisfied with their lives than those who do not. Is there something wrong with these empirical analyses? Or is it that happiness measures are unreliable? This column argues that the results are correct but that comparisons of the wellbeing of parents and non-parents are of no help at all for people trying to decide whether to have children.
Kees Koedijk, Meir Statman, Rachel Campbell, 30 March 2012
Does more money always make you happy? This column argues that financial wellbeing is distinct from income. People with low income can enjoy financial wellbeing as high as people with high incomes as long as their aspirations do not exceed their incomes.
Bruno Frey, Jana Gallus, 21 March 2012
The world appears to be unfair. Those who are prettier earn a higher salary and are also happier. This column argues it is still not hopeless for those less blessed with looks. Appropriate clothing, hairstyles, and good teeth can help, as can choosing a profession where expertise is clearly central and beauty of less importance.
Bruno Frey, Jana Gallus, 02 October 2011
Is religion a ‘crutch for the weak’? This column looks at data on religion and life satisfaction from across the globe and argues that it might just be insurance for the unhappy.
Andreas Knabe, Ronnie Schöb, Joachim Weimann, 17 November 2010
“We were happy in those days… Because we were poor”, goes the old Monty Python sketch. This column suggests there might be some shred of truth in this joke. It finds that while unemployed people report being less satisfied with their life in general, their emotional wellbeing experienced during day-to-day activities does not seem to suffer at all.