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  1. Happiness Andrew J. Oswald University of Warwick Risk and Rationalities Lecture, Cambridge

  2. Economics is changing

  3. Economics is changing Researchers are studying mental wellbeing.

  4. Economics is changing Researchers are studying mental wellbeing. We are drawing closer to psychology and medicine.

  5. Could we learn how to …

  6. .. make whole countries happier?

  7. and even prime ministers..?

  8. So how does this research proceed?

  9. Using large random samples of individuals from many nations: Researchers examine what influences the psychological wellbeing of (i) individuals (ii) nations.

  10. A taste of research (1) Happiness is high among:

  11. A taste of research (1) Happiness is high among: Women

  12. A taste of research (1) Happiness is high among: Women People with lots of friends

  13. A taste of research (1) Happiness is high among: Women People with lots of friends The young and old

  14. A taste of research (1) Happiness is high among: Women People with lots of friends The young and old Married and cohabiting people

  15. A taste of research (1) Happiness is high among: Women People with lots of friends The young and old Married and cohabiting people The highly educated

  16. A taste of research (1) Happiness is high among: Women People with lots of friends The young and old Married and cohabiting people The highly educated The healthy

  17. A taste of research (1) Happiness is high among: Women People with lots of friends The young and old Married and cohabiting people The highly educated The healthy Those with high income

  18. A taste of research (2) Happiness is particularly low among:

  19. A taste of research (2) Happiness is particularly low among: The unemployed

  20. A taste of research (2) Happiness is particularly low among: The unemployed Newly divorced and separated people

  21. A taste of research (2) Happiness is particularly low among: The unemployed Newly divorced and separated people ps… and children have no effect on happiness

  22. A taste of research (3) Economic growth does not make an industrialized country happier.

  23. A taste of research (3) Economic growth does not make an industrialized country happier. Plus there is evidence that stress levels at work, and rates of depression, have been increasing.

  24. A taste of research (4) Noise levels and environmental quality matter to happiness.

  25. A taste of research (5) ‘Fear’ depresses happiness. Countries are happier if they have generous welfare benefits and low unemployment rates. R. Di Tella, R. Macculloch, A.J. Oswald American Economic Review, 2001.

  26. Statistical methods But is it really possible to study happiness and mental wellbeing in a systematic way?

  27. Pleasure centre: septal area of the hypothalamus Amygdala: emotions Self-reported happiness relates strongly to…….  • activity in the brain’s pleasure centres • health, smiles, positive emotional arousal, and future intentions

  28. Brain Responses in Two Pictures(MRI Scans) Source: Richard Davidson, University of Wisconsin

  29. Reported happiness is correlated with… • Person’s assessment of happiness by friends, family and spouse • How many times the person smiles • Person’s recall of good and bad events • Heart rate and blood pressure response to stress • The risk of getting coronary heart disease

  30. Typical GHQ mental-strain questions Have you recently: Lost much sleep over worry? Felt constantly under strain? Felt you could not overcome your difficulties? Been feeling unhappy and depressed? Been losing confidence in yourself? Been thinking of yourself as a worthless person?

  31. Some cheery news:

  32. Some cheery news: In Western nations, most people are happy with their lives

  33. The distribution of life-satisfaction levels among British people Source: BHPS, 1997-2003. N = 74,481

  34. But obviously life is a mixture of ups and downs

  35. Statistically, wellbeing is strongly correlated with life events ..good and bad.

  36. Life satisfaction levels… A) By Employment Status A) By Marital Status Source: BHPS, 1997-2003. N = 74,481

  37. There is also an intriguing life-cycle pattern

  38. There is international evidence that well-being is U-shaped over the life course

  39. The pattern of a typical person’s happiness through life

  40. This holds in many settings

  41. This holds in various settings For example, we see the same age pattern in the probability of depression among a recent sample of 800,000 UK citizens: [Blanchflower and Oswald, 2006]

  42. The probability of depression by age Males, LFS data set 2004-2006 0.02 0.015 0.01 Regression coefficient 0.005 0 -0.005 -0.01 1938 1942 1946 1950 1954 1958 1962 1966 1970 1974 1978 1982 1986 1990 Year of birth

  43. Age at which GHQ-N6 Mental Distress Reaches its Peak: Age at the maximumN • Belgium 52 1005 • Denmark 35 995 • Greece 53 984 • Italy 49 940 • Spain 56 981 • France 45 972 • Ireland 44 972 • Netherlands 47 957 • Portugal 60 937 • East Germany 46 942 • Austria 48 963 • UK 47 1285

  44. Now what about money?

  45. Now what about money? The data show that richer people are happier and healthier.

  46. In the literature, one broad feature is striking:

  47. Eg. these are connected:

  48. The state of the mind determines the health of the body

  49. The state of the mind determines the health of the body Those with high status live longer(being promoted seems more important than a healthy diet and exercise) Married people are healthier(marriage offsets smoking)

  50. To the gentlemen: