New UK happiness index to inform government policy

I have been reading this week about David Cameron’s plans for a national happiness audit.

You have to wonder how this came about. Was Cameron sat at his Very Important Desk one day, fiddling with his iPad, thinking to himself “You know what, I’m just not sure how people are feeling about the slashing of NHS budgets, mass redundancy across the public sector and brutal welfare reform – I know! I’ll spend millions commissioning a survey to ask them!”

Seems a bit weird doesn’t it?

The survey would apparently be designed by an independent national statistician, but this is the bit I really don’t get – how exactly do you measure happiness? Isn’t happiness ultimately subjective? How can you possibly come up with a single numerical value that quantifies the complex emotions of a nation full of men, women and children of all ages, beliefs and motivations?

Besides, I thought we had already established that the secret of happiness was moving to East Anglia and eating pizza?

What do you think – is happiness something we can measure? Could an index of happiness be a useful tool to inform government policy, or should Cameron scrap the survey and just give everyone Dominos vouchers?



  1. 16 November, 2010 / 9:53 am

    I was watching this on BBC news this morning, whilst eating my cornflakes in gloom. I think it’s absurd. Happiness isn’t measureable because the meaning is so different between one person to the next.

    Feeling ‘well in youself’ perhaps.

    • 16 November, 2010 / 10:12 am

      Plus the meaning varies at an individual level too doesn’t it? What makes me happy at eight o’clock on a Monday morning (coffee) won’t be the same as at nine o’clock in the evening (third glass of wine).

  2. maryfclark
    16 November, 2010 / 9:56 am

    Bhutan introduced the idea of a happiness index years ago. A much smaller place, with a more coherent culture– it seems less wacky hearing the head of their government talk about it. I think he’s done a talk about it at a TED conference or at Innotown in Norway. In short: Cameron is not only clueless, he’s a derivative sorta clueless.

  3. 16 November, 2010 / 11:59 am

    I think that when people are happy they vote (new) Labour and when they’re sad they vote Conservative. Thus, everyone is unhappy and he is trying to find a way to prove that they aren’t. If you ask the right questions you can get any answer you want…

  4. 16 November, 2010 / 1:49 pm

    perhaps we should all just e-mail David our-selves and tell him exactly how happy we are?…

  5. 16 November, 2010 / 5:11 pm

    Huh – he certainly doesn’t want to quantify how happy I am at present…

  6. Pete
    17 November, 2010 / 9:32 am

    I think it’s an irrelevant idea. There are already lots of statistics that can help determine how happy we are. Unemployment, crime, I expect even the European blue flag for safe bathing water could be a determining factor.
    The question that I think should be included is:

    How happy are you that the government is spending a significant sum of money on this survey?
    A- happy
    C- don’t really care as, being one of the few disenfranchised in society actually filling this out, my opinion won’t be significantly represented amongst the Tory middle class bleating on about what a marvellous job you are doing Mr Cameron.

  7. 17 November, 2010 / 3:45 pm

    I was happy, till I read about this baloney!

    Honestly. Does he really think we care about happiness when, taking my family for an example, we cannot pay the mortgage and the credit card in the same month. Or replace damaged items because the insurance claim money has to go on food. Or…

    No. Enough. Let’s not make other people unhappy!

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