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June 20, 2011


john b

First, the authors control for the observable things that might make us unhappy: being unhealthy, middle-aged, unemployed, irreligious or divorced

Education/intelligence (to the limited extent that they differ)? This - in line with many of your prior posts - is a key one, I reckon.

john b

(obviously, first para should be in quotes, I always forget Chris's eccentric decision to kill all HTML)


They do control for education; university-educated people do think more about the meaning of life than others, and this seems to make them unhappier. (Tho the higher income that often accompanies education offsets this effect)
PS - it's not me that's killing HTML, but Typepad.


'Could it be that Cameron’s proposal to measure national well-being will in fact tend to reduce that well-being...'

Given that virtually any proposal by Cameron is more than likely to reduce well-being, it's a safe bet.


How is happiness defined? If there is no objective definition how can it be measured or discussed?

This post seems to assume that happiness IS the purpose of life which is a moot point. Maybe the purpose of life is to follow Jesus and die a martyr? Which might entail considerable unhappiness. e.g. Saint Paul. Or living in exile for long periods for the cause e.g. Lenin or Marx.

Stephen Boisvert

Could it be that for poor people there is the belief that greater wealth will bring greater happiness while for richer people they know that happiness isn't so easy to buy?

So if poor people learn about this money-happiness non-relationship the benefits of still having aspirations to purchase happiness will disappear.


Perhaps people in poor countries are closer to reality and therefore the meaning of life (whatever that may be) - so that what they think is actually truer; meanwhile, people in rich countries are cushioned from that reality - and anything they think is actually far more inaccurate. In which case, the latter are bound to feel unhappy - especially when they begin to realise how inaccurate they may be ...

In this sense, for those in rich countries, it's having revealed to them the inexactitude of their thoughts that makes them miserable, not the act of thinking itself.

Harwood Will

I find Stephen's point more persuasive than Mil's, above -- though perhaps I'm just remembering being a child, when one's total and complete future happiness could be guaranteed if only one had X (where X would inconveniently change every year).

Paolo Siciliani

What about the amount of time spend in front of a PC, laptop, tablet and so on and so fort.

Wonder what is the impact of thinking about life on office worker in poor countries, e.g., call centres - maybe thinking about the meaning of life is depressing for them even if they are poor.

Laban Tall

"the observable things that might make us unhappy: being unhealthy, middle-aged, unemployed, irreligious or divorced, among other things"

And we will all, unless unfortunate, be middle-aged one of these days. So it is a good that as few as possible people tick those other boxes - and it's a curiosity that the State, so strident in encouraging us away from unhealthiness, is so retiring when it comes to those other factors.

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