What is Happiness?

Last Updated on September 24, 2017 by

 Happy – lucky, fortunate; contented with one’s lot, glad or pleased[i]

Synonyms [of happy]: Pleasure, joy, exhilaration, bliss, contentedness, delight, enjoyment, satisfaction.[ii]

Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence” (Aristotle) [iii]

The very purpose of life is to seek happiness.” (The Dalai Llama)[iv]

It Sounds crazy – especially coming from a Tory Government whose economic policies spell misery for millions of people. David Cameron wants to measure how happy we are.

Ronald Inglehart has been doing this since 1995 as part of the World Values Survey.

Ronald Inglehart’s research attempts to measure global happiness. Inglehart constructed a measurement of happiness based on mainly two questions, that should reflect happiness and life satisfaction:

1) “Taking all things together, would you say you are very happy, rather happy, not very happy, not at all happy?”
2) “All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?”

The problem for David Cameron is that on this ranking, we only come 74th in the World for happiness- which seams odd given that we are 6th in the world rankings for GPD (Gross Domestic Product – a measurement of the size of our economy). I’m not sure if that’s the largest discrepency between wealth and happiness in the world, but it’s got to put us up there.

Of course, as Polly Toynbe points out, all this is old News to certain sociologists such as Wilkonson and Picket who wrote the Spirit Level. According to their findings,  the reason we are so rich and yet so miserable is because Britain is so incredibly unequal. Every model they have looked at shows that the most unequal societies are the least happy. Even the rich in unequal countries are less happy than the best off in more equal countries.

Given that the Tories are currently instigating policies to increase inequalities, people are likely to be getting more miserable. So it would appear that Cameron’s challenge with his inequality survey is one of wording  the survey differently to that of the World Values Survey, so that it returns different results. Any ideas? How would you design/ administer a survey that makes people seam happier…. Please take this little white pill, wait for 30 minutes, and then we’ll begin…?


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