Getting a grip on elusive happiness

Getting a grip on elusive happiness

The contrasting views of Mrs Macbeth and the vaudeville hoofer capture the paradox driving the explosion of studies from economists that show little connection between wealth and happiness.

In his book Happiness, Richard Layard from the London School of Economics explains the paradox of our inability to recall or predict what makes us happy.

Most people want more income and strive for it. Yet as Western societies have become richer, their people are no happier than they were 50 years ago.

In the same period, average incomes have more than doubled, we have more food and cars, bigger houses, better health, a shorter working week, and more people take overseas holidays. But once median income is guaranteed, making people happier becomes problematic.

Last September, an Australia Institute study found that only one in four Australians believed that life was getting better. Four out of 10 said it was getting worse. This was despite favourable economic conditions during the past decade, high incomes and low official unemployment. Measuring happiness is, at best, open-ended. At worst, it is utter rubbish because there are no objective global standards or metrics to gauge a subjective emotional state. No one has come up with the perfect blissometer for hedonometrics.

Last year, the London-based New Economics Foundation issued its Happy Planet Index, which purportedly measured human wellbeing and development around the world.

Read more about the fascinating link between economics and happiness – just click here.