Why money really can buy you happiness: Cash is the most important factor in making us feel content, say researchers
He spent millions trying to measure national wellbeing.
Now researchers say the Prime Minister needn’t have bothered as they already know what makes us happy – and it doesn’t take a genius to guess the answer.
Money – and lots of it – is the most important factor in a person’s happiness, according to a comprehensive think tank report.
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Findings by the Institute of Economic Affairs show that happiness levels correlate with the amount of wealth a person accumulates. And, in contrast to popular belief, it does not level off when the assets reach a certain threshold.
The report, by a dozen academics from around the world, has dismissed David Cameron’s strategy of promoting happiness over other objectives.
It suggests he would have done far better to invest the time and money into simply making us all better off by boosting Britain’s flatlining GDP.
Philip Booth, editorial director at the IEA, told The Sunday Times: ‘The Government is spending money on collecting happiness statistics in order to promote government policies to try to increase national happiness.
'This is a flawed policy and based on a complete misconception.’
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Drawing from an array of data from 126 countries, the report is published today to coincide with ‘Blue Monday’, which has been identified as the most miserable day of the year because of factors including weather, time of year and debt levels.
Its most controversial finding contradicts the widely-held belief that above a certain income level, people do not become any happier.
The theory, conceived in 1974 by wellbeing expert Richard Easterlin, claimed that happiness stagnates when income rises beyond a certain level.
And two years ago, a study at Princeton University claimed to have found that wellbeing stopped increasing at 58,700 – with an increase of as much as a third making little difference.
But the report, The Pursuit of Happiness, condemns the theory as a ‘myth’ and ‘fake’. It argues a 20 per cent rise in income has the same impact on wellbeing irrespective of how much wealth the person has initially.
It states: ‘No country is rich enough to have hit a satiation point, if such a point exists.
‘These findings are robust and use an extremely rich set of data. Richer individuals are happier with their lives.’
The report says this holds true for 140 countries studied, in which ‘the relationship between income and satisfaction is remarkably similar’.
The report’s authors include British academics as well as those from Spain, America, Holland and Denmark.
It is likely to dismay Downing Street, as it suggests there is little hope of improving Britons’ mood unless the economy improves.
GDP is expected to show growth of just 0.1 per cent at best later this month.
David Cameron said six years ago it was ‘time to admit there’s more to life than money’ and has talked much about promoting wellbeing while in office.
Last year, he announced plans to spend 2m a year finding out how to measure wellbeing, focussing on ‘all those things that make life worthwhile’.
A pilot study found three-quarters of people rate their life satisfaction at seven out of 10.
The concept of measuring happiness was first tried out in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan 40 years ago by its then king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who said progress should be measured by Gross National Happiness.
In the last four decades, similar ideas have been taken on board by governments around the world, who have implemented policies aimed at promoting wellbeing rather than income.