Happiness and wellbeing more important to people than economy

International Happiness DayWhatever their opinion on yesterday’s Budget, the vast majority of Britons think levels of happiness and wellbeing matter more than the size of the economy. In a YouGov poll commissioned to mark today’s United Nation’s International Day of Happiness, a majority (87%) of UK adults were found to prefer the “greatest overall happiness and wellbeing”, rather than the “greatest overall wealth” (8%), for the society they live in. And despite the Conservative Party’s much lampooned attempts to appeal to working class people who they presume enjoy bingo and beer, this majority was found to be broadly consistent across all regions, age groups and social classes. LSE economist and co-founder of Action for Happiness, Lord Richard Laya says the results show that more priority should be given to mental health and wellbeing.

When asked to select the three changes they thought would most increase the overall happiness and wellbeing of people in the UK, ‘more equality between rich and poor’ came out as the most selected factor, with 45 per cent of people choosing this; the next highest response was ‘improved health services’ (39%). Of the choices offered, the least important were found to be ‘improved school standards’ (16%) and ‘improved transport and infrastructure’ (16%).

When asked to select the three most important factors for their own happiness and wellbeing, ‘my relationships with my partner/family’ was the most selected factor, with 80% of people choosing this; the next highest was ‘my health’ (71%), with ‘my money and financial situation’ a distant third (42%). The least important factors were found to be ‘my possessions’ (4%) and ‘my appearance’ (4%).

Commenting on results, Action for Happiness Director, Dr Mark Williamson said: “The economy dominates our political and social discussions, but this survey shows that happiness is more important to people. The vast majority of people would prefer society to be happier rather than richer. So we need to spend less time focusing on the size of the economy and more time focusing on how to help people live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.”

LSE economist and co-founder of Action for Happiness, Lord Richard Layard said: “Our national priorities are clearly out of touch with what really matters to people. Our top priority should be people’s overall happiness and wellbeing. Above all, we should be giving much more attention to mental health, supporting positive family and community relationships and creating a more trusting society.”

In July 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution which recognised happiness as a “fundamental human goal” and called for “a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes… happiness and well-being of all peoples”. In July 2012, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a further resolution which decreed that the International Day of Happiness was to be observed every year on 20 March. The day was celebrated for the first time in 2013.

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