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OPINION13 April 2011

The wrong type of happiness?

An American psychologist whose work inspired David Cameron’s plan to measure national wellbeing has warned that the UK Prime Minister might be trying to measure the wrong thing.

An American psychologist whose work inspired David Cameron’s plan to measure national wellbeing has warned that the UK Prime Minister might be trying to measure the wrong thing.

Professor Martin Seligman – quoted in The Guardian – said that the focus on measuring people’s happiness, as an alternative to cold economic measures of progress like GDP growth, may be misguided. Instead, a better measure of a successful society might be the ability of its citizens to “flourish”.

“What humans want is not just happiness,” he said. “They want justice, they want meaning. An interesting example is that there is quite a bit of evidence that says people’s mood isn’t as good once they have children. If [happiness] were all people were interested in, we should have been extinguished a long time ago.”

Questions on wellbeing started appearing on the Integrated Household Survey this month.

Meanwhile, Seligman has a new book – called Flourish – out next month.

How would you measure wellbeing?

@RESEARCH LIVE

1 Comment

5 years ago

We have been measuring and helping organizations manage happiness at work around the world for the past 5 years. (www.iopenerinstitute.com). Happiness at work and productivity are very closely related and our measure includes fairness, purpose, short and long term mood etc. All the things that result in lasting happiness. Essentially the argument reduces to one of semantics: but as Shakespear said, 'That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.' The point is that we take something more than GDP or the bottom line into account when we're calculating what truly matters to people.

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