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by Lucy McCarraher & Annabel Shaw


Why Happiness Is Important

Following the release of the results of our Happiness Habits Experiment this week, here is "The Background" section of The Happiness Habits Report

Why happiness is important 
Why is it that people who are already contented and confident seem to get all the best breaks, have the most satisfying relationships, and enjoy more fun and exciting lives? It’s not that they’re happy and fulfilled because they have all those things. Long term research has shown that it’s entirely the other way round: happy people have better relationships, more successful careers, earn more money, maintain closer links with friends and family and savour life more. Positive emotions don't just feel good when we experience them; they also affect our long term well-being. The evidence linking emotional well-being to better health and increased longevity is actually stronger than the evidence linking obesity to reduced longevity. Tackling long term issues like obesity is vital, but these are often symptoms of a deeper malaise; the root cause of many problems is unhappiness. Happiness is the underlying factor which makes everything else work better.

A happy society is a better society
If you ask people what happiness means, the chances are you will get as many different answers as people responding. Most people, however, would agree that the experience of happiness is positive and the experience of unhappiness is invariably negative. Happiness and well-being are important, not just at a personal level, but for our society as a whole. As workers we work better; as parents we parent better; as children we learn better; as partners our relationships last longer; even doctors diagnose more accurately; and we are all more tolerant of one another when we are happier - especially when times are hard.

Depression, anxiety, stress and mental ill health, on the other hand, contribute to poorer physical health outcomes affecting heart function, the immune system, digestion and sleep patterns. Unfortunately, whilst everyone wants to be happy, many people say that they aren’t. In the United Kingdom the use of anti-depressants increased by 234% in the 10 years up to 2002 and 43% since 2006 to an incredible 23 million prescriptions a year. The negative effects of feeling unhappy are causing distress to an increasing number of people.

Happiness matters now more than ever
Research shows that economic stability has a large effect on the happiness of society, unlike long-term economic growth; unemployment reduces levels of happiness by as much as bereavement. GPs have reported increasing numbers of patients seeking treatment for anxiety and depression caused by financial worries, a trend liable to continue with the current economic outlook. Other indicators include the NEF’s report showing that unemployment has a poor effect on especially men’s well-being; UNICEF’s report on levels of UK children’s happiness, which is lower than other countries and strongly correlated with the happiness or otherwise of their mother; and Relate’s recent research showing one in five of those aged 35-44 feel lonely a lot of the time, or have suffered depression.

Happiness, it seems, is more important now than ever.

Continue reading/download The Happiness Habits Report here

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