Another skerrick of evidence about measuring happiness

Since Troppo has recently become ‘Happiness Central’ I thought I’d share this snippet from the indefatigable Andrew Oswald and his collaborator David Blanchflower (nice names these guys have got).

A modern statistical literature argues that countries such as Denmark are particularly happy while nations like East Germany are not. Are such claims credible? The paper explores this by building on two ideas. The first is that psychological well-being and high blood-pressure are thought by clinicians to be inversely correlated. The second is that blood-pressure problems can be reported more objectively than mental well-being. Using data on 16 countries, the paper finds that happier nations report lower levels of hypertension. The paper’s results are consistent with, and seem to offer a step towards the validation of, cross-national estimates of well-being.

While we’re at it, some of us in our forties got a kick out of this study by the same mellifluous crew.

Recent research has argued that psychological well-being is U-shaped through the life cycle. The difficulty with such a claim is that there are likely to be omitted cohort effects (earlier generations may have been born in, say, particularly good or bad times). Hence the apparent U may be an artifact. Using data on approximately 500,000 Americans and Europeans, this paper designs a test that makes it possible to allow for different birth-cohorts. A robust U-shape of happiness in age is found. Ceteris paribus, well-being reaches a minimum, on both sides of the Atlantic, in people’s mid to late 40s.
The paper also shows that in the United States the well-being of successive birth-cohorts has gradually fallen through time. In Europe, newer birth-cohorts are happier.

For some of us things can only get better.

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