The first “World Happiness Report” has been released at the UN High Level Meeting on Happiness in early April (Read more about the meeting here). The report, published by the Earth Institute and co-edited by the institute’s director, Jeffrey Sachs, reflects on the current state of happiness around the world and on the possible approaches to systematic measurements of happiness of a person as well as a whole nation.
The authors underline that there has been a shift from seeing “happiness” as far too subjective and vague to be used as a criterium for government policy to being seriously discussed at government meetings and beyond. This is due to the fact that the research into happiness has shown that, “even though indeed a subjective experience, happiness can be objectively measured, assessed, correlated with observable brain functions, and related to the characteristics of an individual and the society.”
The report also presents three happiness case studies:
- the Bhutanese Gross National Happiness measure
- Measuring subjective well-being in the UK; and
- The current development of OECD Guidelines on the Measurement of Subjective Well-being to be released towards the end of 2012.
The authors of the report really see happiness coming on the center stage and suggest four steps to improve policy-making in this area: 1. measure happiness, 2. explain happiness, 3. put happiness at the center of analysis, and 4. translate well-being research into design and delivery of services.
The weekly news magazine The Economist recently (Feb 2012) reported on the results of a new study on the relationship of income and perceived happiness. Undertaken by Ipsos, a private research think-tank, the study involved 19,000 respondents from 24 countries and showed that “the highest levels of self-reported happiness were not in rich countries, as one would expect, but in poor and middle-income ones, notably Indonesia, India and Mexico.” Interestingly, the study also found that “despite global economic gloom, the world [based on the results from 24 countries] is a happier place than it was before the financial crisis began.” Such findings indicate that levels of income do not exclusively determine people’s percieved happiness.
Harvard Business Review featured a series of articles on happiness, wellbeing and economics in its January 2012 issue, under the overall title “The Happiness Factor.” The articles within touched on the following topics: ‘The Economics of Well-Being’, ‘The Science Behind the Smile’, ‘Creating Sustainable Performance’, ‘Positive Intelligence’, and ‘The History of Happiness’. While the overall focus of the issue, based on the cover, appeared to be on improved company performance (thanks to happy employees), the articles inside gave a rather good and balanced overview of the bigger picture of New Economic thinking. (Requires purchase to view the whole issue, or consult your nearest library)