Some governments survey wellbeing – and others may follow
The question of happiness and the economy might sound unusual but it is an idea that is becoming more widespread. There is debate about whether measures of welfare in countries should be broadened from gross domestic product (GDP) to ones that can better address various issues including levels of happiness. A report by Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, commissioned by French President Nicholas Sarkozy, is part of the debate. A European Commission website Beyond GDP details an initiative to develop the indicators. In fact, the United Kingdom government last month started surveying people about their wellbeing.
Can we measure happiness?
However, there are conflicting views on whether happiness should be the subject of policy action – and even if happiness can be accurately measured. Research on the Institute for Economics Affairs website says there are “insurmountable” difficulties in measuring a society’s happiness. It concludes by saying “policymakers should not claim that they can control and increase happiness through public policy decisions”. Respected economist Diane Coyle blogs on The Enlightened Economist that “my happiness is my business, not the government's”.
Happiness is … a short commute and time with family
The eZonomics article Gross National Happiness lists ways research suggests people can boost their own happiness. It tells how being employed can boost happiness – but that long commutes can limit it. Spending time with friends and family is also said to increase happy feelings. Likewise, a movement to make small life changes to increase happiness is gathering pace in the UK with the launch of the Action for Happiness charity and its 10 Keys to Happier Living.