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October 31, 2012


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I don't believe happiness can be compared over time, statements like people are x% more happy now than 10 years ago, or a given policy raises average happiness levels by y%, sound rather stupid to me. Add to that some sort of comparison of means test to test it's significance, well sounds like something you see in a spoof.


They may not like the results especially if they look at the opposite of happiness. The devastation and human suffering they cause!


"Politicians and the political process, even in ostensibly democratic countries, can be deadly. James Gilligan has discovered a devastating truth that has been "hiding in plain sight" for the past century - namely, that when America's conservative party, the Republicans, have gained the presidency, the country has repeatedly suffered from epidemics of violent death. Rates of both suicide and homicide have sky-rocketed."


Something neither you nor Frey mention is that part of the impulse towards new happiness measures is that economic measures basically come to us "pre-distorted."

You yourself have published blogs about how little GDP tells us sometimes... GNP has some pros, but also some cons. etc.

Other stats are more revealing, but we have Tories in power, so Mental Illness and Unemployment are not priorities.

Jennifer Wallace

One of the interesting issues here is that 'happiness' is used as a catch-all to discuss a wide range of approaches to measuring wellbeing. The Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi report argued for a dashboard of wellbeing indicators, recognising that on its own subjective wellbeing doesn't tell you very much. Which is exactly the point you make about knowing what contributes to wellbeing, which is much more important for policy. I work at the Carnegie UK Trus and we've just published a new report on how these measures can impact on policy - much of the discussion is about how to get the measures right but that only really matters if it is used by policy-makers to make different decisions. The report is at http://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/publications/2012/shifting-the-dial--from-wellbeing-measures-to-poli

Phil Rothwell

Instead of policymakers determining what should make people happy, would it not be more effective to poll people as to what criteria are most important for their happiness, as opposed to asking them to measure it themselves. The top polled metrics could then be ranked and measured independently. Repeat this over time and it would not only indicate happiness, but also shifting values of population...Then again, as you say, where is the political currency in that?


If you ask your national statistics office, which acts professionally and independently of political control, then there is no reason to think that the indices will get distorted by people only getting surveyed on a Friday and so on. But if there is a lot of political significance attached to the index, and this is widely known, I suppose there is some risk that people will start responding to survey questions on happiness as if they were questions about the government of the day.

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