THE MEASUREMENT OF HAPPINESS
In the last 50 years there has been no apparent increase in personal happiness in Western nations, despite steadily growing economies. In both Europe and the USA surveys have found no greater level of happiness since the 1950s, which seems strange since wealthier people generally claim to be happier than poorer people. In America, for example, more than a third of the richest group said they were ‘very happy’, while only half this number of the poorest made the same claim. Although it would be logical to expect that rising national wealth would lead to greater national happiness, this has not happened. Individually, more money does seem to increase happiness, but when everyone gets richer, no one appears to feel better.
Economists have recently paid more attention to studying happiness, instead of the more traditional GDP per person. One suggestion has been that people rapidly get used to improvements, and therefore devalue them. Central heating is a good example: whereas 30 years ago it was a luxury item, today it is standard in nearly every home.
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