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Should Happiness Be An Economic Priority?

14/12/2016 16:21
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Despite average incomes more than doubling over the past 50 years, happiness has not increased at all.

According to Lord Richard Layard (an economist and former adviser to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown), getting rid of depression and anxiety would decrease misery by 20% contrasting with the 5% decrease if the target was on reducing poverty by policymakers. His study from LSE (the London School of Economics), Origins of Happiness, indicated that a key priority for any government should be the happiness and satisfaction of the citizens with their lives. The study used findings from numerous international surveys concentrated on the causes of happiness and unhappiness. The BBC reported that roughly 200,000 responses were used to collate the study's findings.

Does money really buy happiness? A double in a person's pay led to less than a 0.2 increase for their happiness on a scale of one to ten. In spite of that, love seems to be the key to happiness with the presence of a partner resulting in their happiness increasing by 0.6 on the same scale. Furthermore, having depression and anxiety resulted in a 0.7 reduction in happiness, alongside the loss of a partner impelling a decreasing plunge in happiness.

Professor Richard Layard stated that "This evidence demands a new role for the state - not 'wealth creation' but 'well-being creation'." Thus, the focus on reducing mental illness would have to be self-financed due to the positive multiplier effects that would occur. Increased government spending would result in increased employment and increased tax receipts, which the government can then re-invest again into the health sector to maintain a strong and sufficient mental healthcare system.

With the desire to reduce poverty all over the world through increased income levels, it seems we have forgotten the most important thing to any human - happiness. "Tackling depression and anxiety would be four times as effective as tackling poverty. It would also pay for itself," he said. It may be cliche to hear that "money doesn't buy happiness" but it is evident that psychological and social facets are significantly more paramount in the well-being of individuals.

To improve the well-being of individuals, the report states that state-run organisations such as schools must place a priority in discussing the importance of mental health issues and anxiety. 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."

In a world where the likelihood of attaining good results is based on the school that one attends, the report stated that, "The strongest factor predicting a happy adult life is not children's qualifications but their emotional health. There is also powerful evidence that schools have a big impact on children's emotional health, and which school a child goes to will affect their emotional well-being as much as it affects their exam performance."

With a decrease in the number of mental health nurses working in the NHS from 45,384 in 2010 to 38,774 in July this year, we need to think about mental health and realise that this is the key to unlocking a happier society. Thus, our health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has promised to increase the funding for mental health services after identifying that the fundamental flaw of the health service was the lack of care for young children.

So, as much as a double in your salary would help out with your Christmas shopping this year, remember that your happiness is not dependent on money.

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