Happiness depends on health and friends, not money, says new study
Landmark research says tackling mental health issues more effective than reducing poverty for increasing happiness rates
Most human misery can be blamed on failed relationships and physical and mental illness rather than money problems and poverty, according to a landmark study by a team of researchers at the London School of Economics (LSE).
Eliminating depression and anxiety would reduce misery by 20% compared to just 5% if policymakers focused on eliminating poverty, the report found.
Lord Richard Layard, who led the report, said on average people have become no happier in the last 50 years, despite average incomes more than doubling.
The economist and former adviser to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown said the study, called Origins of Happiness, showed that measuring people’s satisfaction with their lives should be a priority for every government. The researchers analysed data from four countries including the US and Germany.
Extra spending on reducing mental illness would be self-financing, the researchers added, because it would be recovered by the government through higher employment and increased tax receipts together with a reduction in NHS costs from fewer GP visits and hospital A&E admissions.
“Tackling depression and anxiety would be four times as effective as tackling poverty. It would also pay for itself,” he said.
The report supports the arguments put forward by Layard over several decadesthat social and psychological factors are more important to the wellbeing of individuals than income levels.
“Having a partner is as good for you as being made unemployed is bad for you,” he said.
The report claims that state-run organisations, including schools, must become more focused on tackling anxiety and mental health issues.
“This evidence demands a new role for the state – not ‘wealth creation’ but ‘wellbeing creation’,” Layard said. “In the past, the state has successively taken on poverty, unemployment, education and physical health. But equally important now are domestic violence, alcoholism, depression and anxiety conditions, alienated youth, exam mania and much else. These should become centre stage.” READ MORE