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Happiness = Work, sleep and bicycles

Mark Easton | 08:27 UK time, Friday, 25 February 2011

"Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?" We learned this week that that is one of four new questions being inserted into the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Household Survey as the UK's official number crunchers try to assess the well-being of the nation.

The purpose of this exercise is not to get Britain thinking happy thoughts as the axe falls: the determination to measure well-being pre-dates both the coalition and the age of austerity. The real point is to find a better way of measuring social progress than simply how much stuff we have got. There is a public consultation here.

The problem is exemplified by this graph comparing our wealth with our stated level of life satisfaction. Basically, we have got a whole lot richer but no happier. Arguably, we have become more miserable.

Chart throwing economic growth in the US and Britain

Once we have agreed on a good way of measuring well-being, the idea is that we can then use it to shape our public policy. A paper published by the ONS this week suggests that governments will need "detailed measurement of well-being to show the costs and benefits of different allocation decisions".

The research imagines how well-being data might be used "for the ranking of options across very different policy domains" and "could be used to decide which forms of spending will lead to the largest increases" in the nation's happiness (they prefer the term subjective well-being - or SWB in the jargon).

Some research has already been done on how using well-being rather than wealth might change policy decisions. Last week the think tank NEF (New Economics Foundation) published an excellent report "Measuring our progress: The power of well-being" which included a few thoughts on exactly this.

Unemployment, particularly in men, has been shown to be very bad for well-being. The NEF analysis suggests that its impact is so great that maximising happiness means that "minimising unemployment should be made even more of a priority than it already is".

Some new areas for policy-makers emerge from happiness research. A number of studies have shown strong correlations between well-being and getting enough good quality sleep. The NEF research suggests that sleep "could be given attention if promoting high well-being were treated as the ultimate goal of policy".

"While sleep quality seems a textbook case of a problem that can only be addressed in the private realm, former Harvard President Derek Bok has argued that the subjective well-being evidence means that it should to be treated as a policy priority. He suggests actions to address it across the spheres of public education, medical training, and research funding. Other research suggests that actions to address noise pollution and promoting the sleep-related benefits of exercise (e.g. through public health campaigns) would also result in improvements."

Work and sleep then - two areas that might benefit from a focus on well-being. But NEF come up with another - bicycles. Before we get into the saddle on that, let us consider one of the strongest correlations between activity and happiness - commuting.

Chart showing the relationship between life satisfaction and commuting time

This graph, reproduced in the Young Foundation's report last year "The State of Happiness", sums up the research. The longer they commute, the more unhappy people are.

The NEF report takes this idea a bit further and suggests we should introduce policies to get us out of the car and onto the bike.

"A wealth of literature from researchers studying stress and related effects reveals 'persistent and significant costs associated with a long commute through heavy traffic'. By contrast, studies comparing the experiences of commuting by bicycle and car report that cyclists find their mode of transport at least as flexible and convenient as those who use cars, with lower stress and greater feelings of freedom, relaxation and excitement."

A couple more graphs cited in the Young Foundation report hint at other areas where a well-being agenda might shape policy.

Chart showing the gap between income inequality and child wellbeing
Chart showing wellbeing and everyday democracy

That last graph is, perhaps, an advert for the Big Society while the previous one on inequality suggests progressive taxation is good for happiness.

As the Young Foundation put it: "Well-being is not strongly associated with high pay in itself, although it is linked to earning more than people around you, an effect that decays over time. Increasing tax likewise can be seen as a transfer of well-being. Shifting disposable income from the well off to the less well off, should equate to a small loss of well-being from the wealthy and a big gain in well-being by those on lower income."

One man's happiness is another man's tax demand.

Comments

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  • 1. At 09:25am on 25 Feb 2011, jon112dk wrote:

    "The purpose of this exercise is not to get Britain thinking happy thoughts as the axe falls."

    No?

    There are 1 million decent people - and their families - who are going to be without a job and living in poverty ... deliberately inflicted by this government for ideological reasons, not caused by factors out of their control.

    For every person who will actually be put into poverty there are many more who will be in fear of it being them next.

    This just sounds like another cynical scam to cover up the actions of this government.

    "You used to have a good job with money and self esteem. Now you are in poverty and forced to work on lord snooty's chain gang to get even benefits. But don't worry, be happy - your mom still loves you."

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  • 2. At 09:26am on 25 Feb 2011, John Ellis wrote:

    Happiness is a chemical reaction to a situation. So is depression, money plays a great role in this chemical reaction So does exercise.

    http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/16/phys-ed-what-really-causes-runners-high/

    There's a clue to making a lot of people happier in life in the UK...

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  • 3. At 09:29am on 25 Feb 2011, watriler wrote:

    Commuting and unemployment provides so surprises in a negative correlation, although (and surprisingly) the scale for well-being on the commuting graph suggests a marginal worsening the further one commutes. What is missing is work. It is not the simple antonym of unemployment and it is very difficult to put on a two variate graph. Nevertheless I suggest that in pay, differentials, culture (e.g. bullying - soft and hard), meaningfulness, hours there lurks enormous unhappiness sometimes mitigated by social interaction. A simple index is not practicable but surely there is a clear need to measure or assess the work related well-being level.

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  • 4. At 09:36am on 25 Feb 2011, row-man wrote:

    Happiness or well-being is likely to be indicated by the rate of change in a measure (e.g. the rate of change in health, wealth or the love of a good woman. If you take £100,000 from a person who had £1,000,000 and give it a person who had nothing, who is going to be the happier at that moment? The person with £900,000 or the person with £100,000? It fits with the data on GDP and life satisfaction.The rate of increase in GDP is pretty steady and life satisfaction doesn't change much either.

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  • 5. At 09:37am on 25 Feb 2011, jr4412 wrote:

    Mark Easton.

    downloaded the Young Foundation report because I wanted to get more information on the exact meaning of Figure #20 (finding it somewhat incongruous that UK would score higher than Austria and Germany ;)). what a disappointment: the figures aren't referenced in the report; one figure (#18) shows that 90% or more of US Americans report being "in good health"; another figure (#19) references East and West Germany (!!) -- more than twenty years since they've existed.

    how reliable do you think is the Young Foundation report?

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  • 6. At 11:59am on 25 Feb 2011, Mincepie Murderer wrote:


    Fig 17 is no surprise. It does depend on the quality of the commute though. Zooming unhindered along an open road through wonderful scenery, or sitting at a standstill in a crowded bus/train/solid queue of traffic?



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  • 7. At 12:20pm on 25 Feb 2011, AnotherEngineer wrote:

    Where on earth did they get the numbers for Fig 17 from?
    10 minutes commute? That must be people who walk to the mill at the end of the street! I consider my current commute of 90 minutes to be quite short. Some people I work with spend two hours on a good day and on a bad day up to four. All figures each way.

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  • 8. At 12:53pm on 25 Feb 2011, tony wrote:

    The is a huge difference between real poverty in the third world and the bizarre definition of poverty in the UK.

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  • 9. At 12:58pm on 25 Feb 2011, Ali al-Azzawi wrote:

    On the commute-time graph, notice that increasing your commute time from about 10 minutes to nearly one hour (one way), will only drop your 'life satisfaction' index by about 3%. So, not the greatest argument for not commuting much.
    I am guessing there may be other 'rewards' that are related to the commute time, that would counter the implied negative effects of commuting. So, quite a complex set of variables, and the graph is misleading.

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  • 10. At 1:02pm on 25 Feb 2011, TrueChange wrote:

    I thought this government encourages the idea of ‘Big Society’ and wants people to take control of their own lives and communities, how come they are now so interfering about a very personal emotion ‘happiness’. If they think money can’t make people happy then why don’t they give out something from their millionaire cabinet’s wealth towards helping hundreds of thousands poor children in this country. I guess all of them can work without any pay whatsoever for a year or so, after all this is what they are asking others to do-you will have no job and those of you who have it will be taken away soon so all of you go volunteer in your communities to create ‘their Big Society’.

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  • 11. At 1:04pm on 25 Feb 2011, Mark Seddon wrote:

    @AnotherEngineer Jeez, where do you live? I live 40 miles away from where I work and it takes me an hour to get to work (but I do go past the Lovell Telescope which is pretty cool) which I consider to be far too long. I'm moving so I can walk to work in half an hour saving myself £300 in fuel costs / month.

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  • 12. At 1:19pm on 25 Feb 2011, SeanBroseley wrote:

    Whatever the Government's motives I am hopeful about positive unintended consequences. I think the potential is there.

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  • 13. At 1:20pm on 25 Feb 2011, TheWorthinGer wrote:

    I commute for around 15 minutes on my bike - or 25 minutes by car!

    When I arrive at work on my bike I feel fantastic - like I have won a race. When I arrive by car I just have to search for somewhere to park.

    Buy a folding bike and ride the last 15 minutes of your long journey - you might enjoy it.

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  • 14. At 1:24pm on 25 Feb 2011, cgaway wrote:

    @ jr4412 (09:37am on 25 Feb 2011 )

    The reason for referring to a West and East Germany, twenty years _after_ the end of the old FRG and the GDR stopped existing in 1990, is that a lot of German statistics still differentiate between the more prosperous western part of Germany and the poorer East. For example, whereas there are pockets of high unemployment in some areas of the West, in the East a lot more areas are affected by high unemployment.

    About this happiness survey in the UK:
    It's interesting what's important to this government; it's more important to have such a survey, than - say - cheaper university education, or public libraries. I would assume that not having a public library in your area is going to make some people feel sad. Well, at least some of us who have to work for their money, and are not millionaire-politicians who are leading this country.

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  • 15. At 1:28pm on 25 Feb 2011, hollanie wrote:

    @anotherengineer I think that's the point. We are willing to travel often four hours each day to get to work, in order to earn more money and have a 'better' life, when in fact we might have been just as happy walking 10 minutes and working at the mill.

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  • 16. At 1:35pm on 25 Feb 2011, KateCopestake wrote:

    Sleep is mentioned in the article as affecting happiness; it certainly effects my happiness levels hugely. I have one simple suggestion for helping many of us get a good night's sleep: please put Newsnight on an hour earlier. Thank you.

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  • 17. At 1:42pm on 25 Feb 2011, frockofthenorth wrote:

    @AnotherEngineer: I wouldn't take a job that had a commute of more than 90 minutes each way, and if it was more than 45 minutes I'd be looking to move nearer to the workplace. Life is too short and precious to waste it on commuting--time that your boss is not paying you for!

    Someone commuting as far as your colleagues do will very likely be exhausted by the end of the week from the amount of time spent out of the house at work or getting to and from work. I'd rather end each week exhausted because I spent two evenings playing for my brass band and a third evening learning to dance--a much more enjoyable use of my time than standing in a packed train or staring at a traffic jam.

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  • 18. At 1:46pm on 25 Feb 2011, Barry Bootle wrote:

    The way the "Life Satisfaction" line on the top graph has stayed remarkably flat over the years confirms what I have long suspected - that we Brits exist, and will continue to exist, in a state of mild gloom, no matter what our personal circumstances.

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  • 19. At 1:48pm on 25 Feb 2011, Bos Kabouter wrote:

    More bicycle lanes is the road to happiness in this country! Good for the heart, good for the brain and good for the environment. It is simples.

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  • 20. At 1:56pm on 25 Feb 2011, JR wrote:

    If the Government gets the measure of hapiness in place in time it will be able to track the increasing unhappiness of the population as all of its new policies take effect, and if it is really interested in improving the nation's happiness it will do a u-turn on them all.

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  • 21. At 1:56pm on 25 Feb 2011, Johnnybgood wrote:

    Give me a footballers wage of £120,000 a week and I`ll show you real haapiness :-)

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  • 22. At 1:56pm on 25 Feb 2011, Chris Sampson wrote:

    A study which I have done recently (unpublished) showed that people with cancer do not have a significantly lower level of subjective well-being than people who don't have cancer.

    Some good things could come of this - one being an end to this country's ridiculous obsession with cancer, and stop the abandonment of all rational thought when somebody mentions the "C" word.

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  • 23. At 2:02pm on 25 Feb 2011, dickie_do wrote:

    An interesting report however one major factor in a persons happiness is gratitude toward what they already have. For example to put this into perspective, I'm sure one would prefer to have a 2hr commute rather than be descending into a civil war like the honest, working people that are within Libya are experiencing. 2hr commute or bullets being fired at you? Yes we are lucky aren't we.

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  • 24. At 2:05pm on 25 Feb 2011, Em wrote:

    I have always loved the idea of running the country based on happiness rather than monetary measures, and have admired Bhutan for the fact that it measures it's Gross Domestic Happiness. I think it would do us all good to focus in individual and group happiness within the country.

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  • 25. At 2:20pm on 25 Feb 2011, Stephan wrote:

    Dont expect that because the happiness factor has remained steady, that it is not correlated to income or economic growth. But it is relative wealth that counts. Because Britain's relative wealth has remained fairly constant against other countries, the level of happiness has remained the same. If this would change, and we continue to slide down the rankings of wealth, we will be considerably less happy.

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  • 26. At 2:21pm on 25 Feb 2011, IanKemmish wrote:

    "Progressive taxation is good for happiness" - given that investment bankers are likely to "strongly disagree" with that comment, it sounds like exactly the kind of Utilitarian viewpoint that BBC Magazine has been pooh-poohing on this very website for the past few months!

    As for quality of sleep being a matter for public policy - what are you gong to do? Outlaw terraced housing? Make morning larks and night owls live in separate ghettos? It hardly seems a serious proposition.

    Then again, if it weren't for a certain amount of dissatisfaction in life, most people probably wouldn't get out of bed in the morning. Just think of dissatisfaction as evolution's way of telling you it's time to eat.

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  • 27. At 2:28pm on 25 Feb 2011, Appeal to common sense wrote:

    It is not neccesary to over-dress or over-complicate this issue. Certain things do us good and certain things do not. Everyone knows this. Life teaches us this. A 5 year old child knows very well what is good for it and what is not. S/he learns this and knows this quite naturally.
    As we get older, each of us decide what position we will take on any issue. That position can lead to towards well-being or not. Take 2 people who have a terrible accident and lose a leg. Come back 10 years later and one might be bitter about it, the other might have taken the challenging situation as a spur to improve themselves and be an inspiration to themselves and everyone else; so well-being clearly has alot to do with each person's decisions in life - not external circumstances (except the obvious examples, of course). As for happiness, are we here to be happy? I would argue not as a first principle. I see we are here to fulfil a function on the planet.
    The quest for self-pleasure in the world is out of balance, trying to compensate for the misery of the world but is doomed to fail because it is a reaction to the misery and is completely the wrong motivating or originating point. We have a part to play in the bigger picture of planetary and universal life. Can we stop being so personally involved with needing to be happy all the time, or thinking it's wrong if we're not. How can anyone be truly happy in a world like this one currently is? It's not surprising that people are not happy really is it? Every time one human suffers every other human feels it - conciously or unconciously, for we are all a web of humankind, so how can it not be so? Yes, I know we mostly push these things deep into our subconcious minds, for it is too painful and difficult to deal with these things on top of all the other nonsense we are forced to deal with today that is not necessary or truly useful.
    I have noticed that when I am busy doing something valuable and worthwhile, all thoughts of whether I am happy or not go out of the window. Satisfaction may come, but happiness, really? Living's hard work if you take it seriously, so happiness doesn't really come into it.
    If the countless pounds spent on unneccesary researches like this were spent on a more natural education for the younger generations, we wouldn't have to suffer these kinds of wastes of funds in the future on what are in fact quite obvious and simple issues. What about the motive of educating them to be wiser than us? Sounds a good idea to me! And it's clear that we are alow learners (the greatest understatement perhaps :o) )
    The greatest cause of illness and dissatisfactions of many kinds in the world is the fact that people are disconnected from purpose and a natural way. No matter what cultural 'fixes' people try to apply it is all in vain. Reconnection to the reason why you are here is the only thing that works - whether found by accident, inadvertently or deliberately sought and found. The evidence is to be found by witnessing a child. They are still connected. Come back a few years later and something has changed, hasn't it? It can be painful or confronting to admit it, but it is so for most. The world at large disconnects people from their natural well-being because it runs on hot energies that do not do our energy handling systems any good, it runs on pain, punishment, cheating, lying and many other things which do not belong with what a human is. We all know this. We have known it a long time.
    For the sake of our collective future and the future of this marvellous planet, let us do what we know needs to be done and let us do it now. We need to grow up as a race and leave behind the childish insecurities and fears of yesterday and take up responsibility for ourselves, each other and the earth. Then we might start to feel better about things, don't you think?
    It's really not surprising that depression is an epidemic considering the promulgation of news of things vile and evil. What a bizarre practice we have of obsesssing over the worst aspects of society. I wonder how that might look to a passing alien?
    Sorry if it sounds like a lecture or a rant. I don't mean it to but it's a passionate area for me, and it's so very important now at this most pivotal time in the history of the planet and the human race.

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  • 28. At 2:31pm on 25 Feb 2011, Stephan wrote:

    @anotherengineer: My wife and I prefer to live in a small flat 20 minutes from work than in a large house 60 minutes away; this allows me to spend almost an hour and half more each day with my kids. There is a lot I can do with this time: go to the swimming pool, play football in the park, cook and eat elaborate meals, review the homework AND watch TV together, have friends over, etc. If I had to commute more than that, I would never see my family, so why should I have bothered having one in the first place?

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  • 29. At 2:32pm on 25 Feb 2011, Peter Galbavy wrote:

    Measuring "happiness" falls to either the agendas of those doing the measuring or so soft surveys of people who have enough time to respond. A bit like those polls they conduct in shopping centres during the week - great if you want the responses of the yummy mummy out for coffee and browsing with friends or some unemployed yoof, but you then completely miss those working in factories, office and even those like professional drivers.

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  • 30. At 2:38pm on 25 Feb 2011, dieseltaylor wrote:

    IanKemmish - Noise in itself is stressful and affects peoples health. Aircraft noise has been shown to affect learning levels at primary schools. The EU are requiring all cities with populations over 250,000 to have a noise abatment policy. Already in existence is a requirement for quieter tyres which will come into effect in the next couple of years.

    Fortunately there is also research on reducing noise, written up in this weeks New Scientist. However lets make sure as reasonable that the costs are borne by those who create undue noise levels.

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  • 31. At 2:39pm on 25 Feb 2011, adyprice wrote:

    Is there an argument to say that the person who chooses to get on a bike rather than drive a car is a happpier person in the first place?
    The person who rides the bike to work has chosen to work more locally, values happiness and exercise rather than money etc. The fact that they choose to ride a bike does not determine how happy they are, it is a result of how happy they are in the first place.
    I have absolutely no scientific evidence to back this up, simply common sense.

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  • 32. At 2:41pm on 25 Feb 2011, jr4412 wrote:

    Appeal to common sense #27.

    "What a bizarre practice we have of obsesssing over the worst aspects of society."

    well, it helps sell lots of Prozac(tm). ;)

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  • 33. At 2:44pm on 25 Feb 2011, Vamos Ye Azules wrote:

    It is incredibly sensible research and I applaud it. But interpretation of the results is not easy. I am sure most people with political opinions will see what they want to see and draw their own conclusions. However, I do think it gives us some guidance on policy making.

    The big things for me were noise pollution, employment and commuting.

    However there are glaring omissions from either the report or the study. The UK is one of the most densely populated and most ethnically diverse countries on the planet, so why don't we study how the UK measures up with other countries.

    And of course, you have to ask yourself how policies which are designed for SWB effect GDP, because they need to be affordable.

    In addition it worth studying areas that we cannot legislate for like the weather for instance. In order to draw better comparisons.

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  • 34. At 2:52pm on 25 Feb 2011, Appeal to common sense wrote:

    @ jr4412. Ha-ha, yes.

    Exactly! :o)

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  • 35. At 3:01pm on 25 Feb 2011, a f h wrote:

    @Mark Seddon depending on the value you put on your free time (may be more or less than your hourly wage, but it's a good place to start) the hour you'll save each day is likely to be worth more over the course of a month than the 300 quid in fuel. Not to mention wear and tear on the car etc.

    Putting a monetary value on your time can also be a nice way to justify paying "inflated" inner city rents/prices. That is, unless you're a cycle commuter with a penchant for beer and cake in which case a 30min commute each way becomes a substitute for an hour at the gym and 50 quid a month in gym membership. Driving to a gym is something that will never make sense to me!

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  • 36. At 3:16pm on 25 Feb 2011, A Burnett wrote:

    The only reason that we are not experiencing happiness in this moment is that we are focusing on, or thinking about, what we DON'T have. So if you're not feeling happy, ask yourself 'Am I focusing on what I don't have?'
    Enlightenment lies in the question, not the answer.

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  • 37. At 3:26pm on 25 Feb 2011, GREETS wrote:

    It may be worth noting that the role of the media can be attributed to the overall ‘feeling’ of a nation, considering its vast influence over the majority of information we consume. I was recently on a weekend break and came back quite refreshed only to pick up some daily rag on the tube and read parts of it. It wasn’t the stories themselves that were (most) depressing, but more the tone of the articles, the language used and the almost systematic drudgery of the printed opinions.

    I appreciate that we, as a nation, are in a rubbish position (and there are a thousand examples all over this website as to why), but we should perhaps stop consuming this eternal barrage of horror/scare/depressive mongering and just get on with it (I was made redundant myself, so I feel I’m in a position to comment), rather than dwelling in this collective national mourning.

    Maybe the reason people are depressed on commutes is not because of a poor work/life balance, but because of the cheap tat they (choose to) read every morning. Obviously this isn’t really the core of ‘English gloom’, but I’m sure it goes some way to contributing to it.

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  • 38. At 3:39pm on 25 Feb 2011, Forlornehope wrote:

    The trend line in Fig 6 could only have been drawn by somebody who did not know much about stats. There are four countries on the chart with exceptionally low levels of child well-being (UK, USA, Israel and New Zealand). If you exclude the outliers it is clear that there is no significant relationship between income inequality and the desired outcome. It is a common error to draw a trend line in data of all kinds which only exists because of one or two outliers. The BBC should be rather more competent than this article. The interesting question is why those four countries are so different from the others. That requires an open mind - not something that is often found in social studies!

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  • 39. At 3:48pm on 25 Feb 2011, D James wrote:

    If you have enough money for your needs, then time is more important than making more money - time doing what you want to do can't be replaced or taxed. For many having work may be important, but it's also important for most people to finish work at a reasonable time and not then to have to waste lots of time getting home. Smart employers understand this and enjoy good staff retention - others work their staff into the ground and wonder why they are miserable and quit. We need to have a decent minimum wage and minimal taxes for low-paid people so more people can achieve an adequate standard of living, and to curb our culture of long working hours that makes most well-paid jobs miserable. This would easier if we could calm our obsession with status symbols because they do not make people happy, just envious.

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  • 40. At 3:49pm on 25 Feb 2011, astrojoeuk wrote:

    Money can't buy happiness

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  • 41. At 3:57pm on 25 Feb 2011, Bakez wrote:

    Shock horror nobody cares about GDP.

    It is time politicians (and media) woke up to the fact that absolutely nobody cares for any meaningless GDP rise or fall. Who cares if our GDP goes down 0.6%? Absolutely nobody apart from politicians who will put spin on it.

    What people care about is having a nation to be proud of. This is why the general public WOULD like to see the 'banks' get up and leave the country. They don't care what tax receipts they generate, what they care about is being humiliated inside their own country. This is why there is a growing anti immigration sentiment (and now a very strong one), people don't care what minor economic benefits some claim they might bring, what they care about is our nation's culture being eroded.

    It is often argued that World War 2 was caused by the absolute humiliation and removal of dignity of the German people by the Treaty of Versailles. Unfortunately this is happening again, but this time by our own Governments. We see the people in our closest neighbour, Ireland, 'bailed out' and get bought and sold like mere shares on the stock market. It is the ultimate humiliation and it awaits most nations in Europe, and the rise of the extreme right wing will continue in Denmark, Holland, Sweden, Austria, Germany, and UK, as more and more realise that these parties may be the only ones who are willing to take extreme measures to restore their nations pride.

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  • 42. At 4:06pm on 25 Feb 2011, neilmorbs wrote:

    These are just statistics. Happiness is related to more than just your commute - it is about how you live your whole life and your attitude.

    I laughed when I read that someone couldn't believe people would commute for only 10 minutes. Mine is 10 mins in the car or 30 by bicycle. Riding the bicycle definitely keeps me happier - so long as none of the angry drivers crush me!

    Personally I'd like a more socially responsible society, like some Scandinavian societies. That's not our culture though - we are far too lazy!

    The one thing that has really had a big impact on being happier for me? NO MORE TELEVISION! I now feel great. Life is good - don't worry, be happy!


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  • 43. At 4:22pm on 25 Feb 2011, GREETS wrote:

    #40: Money can't buy you happiness

    But having no money can certainly make you unhappy

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  • 44. At 4:31pm on 25 Feb 2011, Fencebound wrote:

    I would like to enthusiastically second the comment No. 37. The media do not help the happiness of the nation. With 24 / 7 televised news, and newspapers competing for their survival, everything is being sensationalised to create a 'good' story. And invariably, it is presented as bad news. The world is a bad place, so it really does not need exaggerating....
    Examples of this abound:
    Anything about Swine flu, which, it turned out was milder than normal flu.
    Job losses...any number quoted will tend to be posts not people losing their jobs. So whilst the cuts are harsh (I too have been made redundant) it is never as bad as is quoted. For example: 53000 jobs to go in the NHS !!!!! The NHS employs 1.3M people. If their turnover of staff was just 5% per year (low), they'd lose 65000 people...so I do not think this is really news...
    And so it goes on..
    One guide to happiness I have read says to stay happy, do not watch the news or read papers...they're right....


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  • 45. At 5:10pm on 25 Feb 2011, twistywillow wrote:

    19. At 1:48pm on 25 Feb 2011, Frenske wrote:
    More bicycle lanes is the road to happiness in this country! Good for the heart, good for the brain and good for the environment. It is simples.
    -------------------
    No it is not 'simples' as you put it.
    The bicycle lanes are pavements, and as a result many cyclists who have never passed a cycling proficiency course or a driving test seem to regard pavements as their own road, ignoring all other pavement users, including young children walking home from school
    Cyclists (the uneducated, feral, hoon sort) are a menace around here, and frankly I liked it better when they were not nannied into using the pavements, and had to do cycling proficiency at school to be able to use the road, the only people they then risked was themselves. Now, they are the bigger vehicle and pedestrians are small fry and since they have no insurance, it doesnt matter who they knock down. So sorry, it is not 'simples'.

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  • 46. At 5:22pm on 25 Feb 2011, Giles Jones wrote:

    "Where on earth did they get the numbers for Fig 17 from?
    10 minutes commute?"

    There is life north of Watford you know :-)

    My cycle commute takes 18 or 28 minutes depending on the route and I look forward to it. To do the same trip in the car can either take 10 minutes or 30 minutes. The bicycle is more consistent and I'm getting exercise at the same time for free (no need for gym membership) and saving fuel and not emitting CO2.

    I can carry large loads as the bike is designed to do so (look up Xtracycle), I carried a bath end panel home on it recently.

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  • 47. At 5:25pm on 25 Feb 2011, Roger Hyam wrote:

    Are we happy as a society? No - just look at the number of people on anti-depressants (1 in 10 and rising rapidly). Look of the number of people who spend their days in jobs they just tolerate and their evenings fuzzed out with a gin in front of some light entertainment. You could call it a life I suppose.

    How many people work in jobs that are really necessary. I mean jobs that we couldn't just design out of the system if things were done differently. The vast majority of people aren't essential workers. Do we need so many phone companies, so many financial products, supermarkets with 100,000 different products - of course we don't. We could arrange society so we all played a lot more, worked a lot less and perhaps lived a little longer but we are incapable of doing it. The sad thing is people aren't even prepared to consider it a possibility - they think it has to be like this and get angry and abusive if you even suggest things could be different - a form of cognitive dissonance - how could it be wrong when I have invested so much in it?




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  • 48. At 5:28pm on 25 Feb 2011, BahamasSpurs wrote:

    When was the research done? On a Monday morning or a Saturday evening? Might tell different stories!

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  • 49. At 5:41pm on 25 Feb 2011, imagia wrote:

    While this is excellent research, how do you deal with stupid commute times. If we persist with the silly notion of having all the jobs in London, commute times are here to stay.

    One sure fire way of raising happiness is of course to put a sledgehammer through your TV. That way you don't have to listen to adverts telling you to buy what you don't need, programmes telling you that fame is the pinnacle of human achievement or government propaganda and corporate press releases masquerading as news.

    Go ride a bike instead.

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  • 50. At 5:44pm on 25 Feb 2011, redrobb wrote:

    I'll tell you is happy right now, a chap called Patton. This is a bloke who was one of Mrs T's henchmen at the height of her power who was happy to get his hands covered with the same stuff as Mrs T. Who then lost his job when nulabour appeared on the scene only to end up being the governor of hongkong until handed back to china, then he comes back and get a lordship and a few other slaps on the back. Now he's going to get a highly paid number as the bbc trust chairman, just what part of impartiality applies to this man, LOL. Is it any wonder why extremists are created when this type of events are all to frequent in this country!Meanwhile I just had my annual appraisal which was marked down because I don't smile enough, crikey I can see me searching the web for some alternate relief....

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  • 51. At 5:50pm on 25 Feb 2011, J wrote:

    Isn't happiness all about thinking positively? Money may help ease some tought decision making, but with a half-full glass (and some compromises), happiness will always be on your side.

    And don't forget happiness is infectious. :)

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  • 52. At 5:57pm on 25 Feb 2011, busterrabbit wrote:

    Decades of boom and bust means that many in the UK had to keep seeking new employment, this is why we have the longest commute in europe.

    Add that to the yob culture making many peoples' live a misery, the fact that almost every town is a no-go area on Friday and Saturday nights. If TV police fly on the wall programmes are to be believed violent and drunk behaviour goes all but unpunished, and there's no wonder that many are disillusioned, unhappy, and desperate to escape this broken country.

    Only one problem, you can't sell your house!

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  • 53. At 6:02pm on 25 Feb 2011, Noonanio wrote:

    Middle class navel gazing...

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  • 54. At 6:05pm on 25 Feb 2011, John Ellis wrote:

    Fencebound For example: 53000 jobs to go in the NHS !!!!! The NHS employs 1.3M people. If their turnover of staff was just 5% per year (low), they'd lose 65000 people...so I do not think this is really news...

    Churn is vastly different to cuts, churn is replaced cuts are not.


    Roger Hyam
    Are we happy as a society? No - just look at the number of people on anti-depressants (1 in 10 and rising rapidly). Look of the number of people who spend their days in jobs they just tolerate and their evenings fuzzed out with a gin in front of some light entertainment. You could call it a life I suppose.

    leading this sort of life will lead to depressive states alcohol destroys receptors in the brain that control mood and thus interfere with dopamine and serotonin levels done on a nightly basis the brain will never get the opportunity to re balance itself and the need for new receptors via antidepressants are required. It would be interesting to see the relationship with those prescribed antidepressants and alcohol consumption.

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  • 55. At 6:12pm on 25 Feb 2011, Woolfbane wrote:

    Most of my stress/unhappiness comes from dealing with the mindless and unfathomable bureaucracy of banks, insurers, government agencies and other organisations staffed by form-filling jobsworths with the IQ of newts and the competence of sloths on mogadon. Why do they all sound like they are reading from pre-printed cards? Why do the questions limit the answers I can provide? Why are the procedures more important than a sensible outcome? And why does it always cost me money to be on the receiving end of this prim mealy-mouthed pompous piffle - and still receive no satisfaction whatsoever? My experience has been that most such organisations are no more than thieves and liars whose operation is legalised and even endorsed by the state - and there is NO REDRESS. Stress?! - it must be the result of banging my head on a brick wall.

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  • 56. At 6:37pm on 25 Feb 2011, cjsk wrote:

    What's a GPD?

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  • 57. At 6:37pm on 25 Feb 2011, Dave H wrote:

    What about happiness measured against state interference? I'm sure a lot of us would be much happier if the state didn't keep piling on red tape and requiring us to jump through more hoops, or putting up imaginary obstacles that makes the life of officials easier but the lives of the general public harder.

    Summary for government officials: stop taking my money and wasting it and get out of my life.

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  • 58. At 6:38pm on 25 Feb 2011, Jennie Cunningham wrote:

    I loved riding my bicycle to work enjoying cheap transport, fresh air, saving time and keeping fit until I was hit by a car and now healing from a broken collar bone. I will not cycle on the roads again as it is too dangerous and cars largely disregard cyclists even when you are a responsible rider. Cycling then is good for your health if you keep off the roads and I will from now on ( when I'm better anyway).



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  • 59. At 7:29pm on 25 Feb 2011, muggwhump wrote:

    What about having an affordable roof over your head? Or enough money to have the heating on when its cold? If things like that make you unhappy it seems the ONS and the government will turn a blind eye to it. Selective happiness is the order of the day...

    This is just politics, its a way for whoever is in government - it was started under Labour - to justify whatever policies they chose to. The 'happiness graph' can, and will be waved under our noses whenever they want some kind of unprovable justification to any opposition.

    Why instead don't they ask people what makes them unhappy and address themselves to that?

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  • 60. At 7:48pm on 25 Feb 2011, John Ellis wrote:

    56. At 6:37pm on 25 Feb 2011, cjsk wrote:
    What's a GPD?

    GDP Gross domestic product/produce/production

    how much stuff we make n sell

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  • 61. At 8:34pm on 25 Feb 2011, nautonier wrote:

    I get it ... the less we feel it necessary to post on here ... the 'happier' we will all be?

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  • 62. At 9:11pm on 25 Feb 2011, Trek2Work wrote:

    I see that we have had the usual anti bike comments.

    Motorists – you don’t own the road. And you don’t pay Road Tax! That was abolished in 1937! You may have to pay a Vehicle Tax which goes straight into the Central Government coffers. You don’t pay the tax if you have an electric vehicle or vintage cars or are disabled. Smokers pay tax on their fags and it doesn’t mean they own the NHS, does it?

    Of course, many drivers don’t tax their cars and insurers will tell you that 1 in 3 don’t insure their vehicle. Hit and runs? I wonder how many are uninsured, untaxed and no MOT?

    Cyclists are dangerous? More sinned against than sinning. How many people have been killed by cyclist in the last ten years? I have heard the figure of three (and I must apologise to any relatives of those lost if I have offended you. One death on the road is one too many). How many people have been killed by motorists within a mile of where you live? Ask your local police or council.

    I own a car. On days I don’t need my car for my work, I cycle the six miles each way to work. Quite often it is faster than taking the car. Dangerous? Yes, some drivers are incredibly ignorant – not leaving enough room when passing and even trying to overtake you when you are turning! All cyclists have to beware of traffic jams, you can see the pent up anger in drivers.

    Despite the idiots, cycling to work is still fun.

    And finally, why don’t we all leave the car at home next week and tell these murdering oil rich despots to go stick their oil.

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  • 63. At 9:12pm on 25 Feb 2011, juliet50 wrote:

    Almost all my stress comes from reading newspapers, watching the news and hearing depressing stories usually hyped up by the media. Come to think of it posting on here does not make me feel too happy either!

    Not being taxed to death or being charged over the hilt for basic necessities would do a lot to alleviate my unhappiness.

    Having said that I think if you can find positive things to be thankful for like your health, family and friends and simple pleasures like going out for a walk on a nice summer day or reading a book by the fireside on a wet afternoon then life is much easier.

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  • 64. At 9:23pm on 25 Feb 2011, sinjon wrote:

    If you want more need less - hard to do, but a bicycle helps.

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  • 65. At 9:27pm on 25 Feb 2011, zummersetman wrote:

    I think that a lot of quality of life issues centre around the commuting/housing issues. Working locally has become increasingly difficult since I grew up in the early eighties.

    Back then there were a more diverse array of businesses in your town, but then everything started to move out of town. Small businesses started to disappear; butchers, grocers, small retailers in general once at the centre of community replaced by out of town retail parks/shopping centres. Engineering firms closed, etc and we all got used to driving everywhere to get anything done and the public transport infrastructure was reduced.

    The trouble with working locally is that you can find yourself priced out of the areas where all the work is.

    If you can afford to live close to your current job, what happens when you get made redundant (twice this year, thanks) do you want to be continually moving house with all the associated expense and upheaval? It's just not practical.

    I'd say this though. I am a big fan of cycling and it really does improve your morale. You should do it a least twice a week even if not sensible for the commute. Obviously the exercise is good but if I need to think something through, an hour on the bike usually does the trick.

    Roll on the long summer evenings.

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  • 66. At 9:48pm on 25 Feb 2011, __cats wrote:

    Happiness is
    fresh air
    friendly work colleagues
    friendly family
    creative work
    learning something new every day
    being good at something
    and being recognised for it
    and ...
    not driving but .... riding my bike
    :-)

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  • 67. At 9:57pm on 25 Feb 2011, MikeVonDoom wrote:

    I'd be less miserable if I wasn't too ill to work (no, DailyMailistas, not all benefits claimants are revelling in luxury and laughing at you while they rake in your tax money to buy ever-larger TVs) and could afford to get a house together with my girlfriend.
    But, when circumstances are out of your control, you have to wrest happiness from the jaws of misery.
    The days I can go for a walk = happy.
    The couple of pints of real ale I can drink (CFS/ME causes alcohol intolerance) = more happy than I'd once have got from getting wazzed.
    A few cool book finds in charity shops = many happy hours from each.
    I just ate a whole bag of fizzy fruity sweets and I don't care.
    I have a roof over my head and I'm not about to starve; apart from an annoying illness, what do I have to complain about?
    Like every other poor person, I'd like to see a fairer distribution of the planet's resources, but when the I have so much more than half the world could ever dream of having, I really owe it to myself to be happy with the small things.

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  • 68. At 10:15pm on 25 Feb 2011, realistic wrote:

    Happiness, to me, would be to be able to walk on the pavements and pedestrian crossings like I used to, without being nearly run over - and subsequently insulted for not jumping out of the way fast enough - by a bloody cyclist.

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  • 69. At 10:39pm on 25 Feb 2011, crazeygrazy wrote:

    The amount of daylight and good weather must have a profound effect. So far we have modified the summertime to make sure that the cows get up at the right time and to make sure children don't get run over on the way to school (doesn't really matter if it happens on the way home). No thought of its effect on public morale. A re-think is now necessary...

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  • 70. At 10:48pm on 25 Feb 2011, hectoring wrote:

    I used to cycle to work. A simple, short, urban, 45 minute bike ride each way. I was utterly miserable: endless traffic, terrible rain, several near misses with double deckers, general feeling of uneasiness in the daily mayhem that is peak traffic hour, often needing a shower before sitting at my desk, unable to wear the clothes I would have wanted to wear, sweating profusely or cold to the bone.

    I moved on to public transport, becoming more depressed. Crowded, smelling, often late, inconvenient in terms of route and timetable, extortionately expensive, taking twice as long to cover the same distance, full of miserably people the look of which in dark winter mornings dwindled any spirits in my heart, buses were a terrible disappointment.

    Prevented from using a car from fascist parking policies at the place of work, I resorted to buying a motorcycle. Eureka! I halved the commute and gained a sense of freedom and entitlement that fills me with joy every day I go to work. And is cheaper than the bus too. There is nothing that fills my heart with happiness more than taking a scenic route home after a day at work on my bike, especially in summer evenings.

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  • 71. At 10:55pm on 25 Feb 2011, Anna Sempe wrote:

    Interesting article Mark - reading the comments above I'm glad to see I'm not the only one that values sleep as an important component of overall happiness (and @KateCopestake #16 - my sentiments exactly with respect to moving Newsnight an hour earlier!)

    I've just written an article on the drivers of social revolution in relation to the North African uprisings and it's interesting to read your comment in passing about "Unemployment, particularly in men, has been shown to be very bad for well-being" - not surprisingly, the unemployment rate in most of the countries experiencing revolts is very high relative to stable democracies.

    More than money, people need to feel like they're progressing against their own goals to feel both happy and motivated.

    Anna (Social issues blog)

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  • 72. At 11:39pm on 25 Feb 2011, Cubism wrote:

    The problem is (and lots of people have made the basic assumption) that GDP is equal to the wealth of the majority increasing. The reality is that the richest in our society are getting richer, and the rest of us remain in the same position (if we're lucky).

    The wealthiest in our society aren't satisfied and hope that MORE wealth will compensate (which it doesn't, or not in the same proportion as their new wealth at the very least) while the rest of us stay on the same path.

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  • 73. At 11:51pm on 25 Feb 2011, L Cuinu wrote:

    You get in from work and what? Cook a 3 minute meal for the whole family, which can cost the same as fillet steak per pound (yup, look at the small price per kilo in the supermarket), then sit in front of the PC or TV and whittle the whole night away....not happiness! This was me! I now do charity fund raising through fitness inspired events and wow! do I feel so much better! must say I never did the fast meal thing, and did do a lot of running in my youth, but there was a definite "rut" of heavy work, commute, tv...and man I'm tired!
    Cycling takes twice as long, but as everyone can tell you...sooo much satisfying!..Yes you do get the odd moron in the car (jeez, are our tests too easy?).
    Before you say...ahh but you have a job. There were times our back was agains the wall, no job, no money...but we 'lived' and made the best 'fairly happily'. Cooking simple cheap food....not quick! we couldn't afford it.
    Learn to cook...and stay fit...the rest will follow...simple ...yes, easy.... no!

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  • 74. At 00:01am on 26 Feb 2011, twg wrote:

    I love my commute by bike, it gets me awake and alert in the morning and de-stresses me in the evening. It certainly contributes to my daily happiness and I hate it if for some reason I can't cycle. It's only 20 minutes each way but it keeps my fitness up to a decent level even if I do no other regular exercise. It takes half the time of the bus by the time I've walked to the stop and waited for it to actually turn up. And the cost of an annual bus pass or parking permit would get me a very decent new bike every year or two!

    However, in response to onceanidealist and the other cyclist-bashers, I find city pedestrians as big or bigger a danger than motorists- constantly walking out into the road in front of cyclists (and cars) without looking (often texting or talking on phones). I was almost killed by one gormless moron crossing at a red-man ped-xing with no attempt at all to check the traffic. A 25mph collision catapulted me head first into railings and at least only my helmet fractured instead of my skull. So, yes, shouting at pedestrians who are about to walk in front of you is sadly basic life-preservation. Sometimes we may get it wrong but we aren't psychic and have learned from bitter experience to assume the worst. Of course there are also irresponsible and inconsiderate cyclists just as there are with motorists and pedestrians, and they frustrate me too, as they give responsible cyclists a bad name to those who can only see black and white.

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  • 75. At 00:35am on 26 Feb 2011, TeessideMag wrote:

    38. Forlornehope wrote: "The trend line in Fig 6 could only have been drawn by somebody who did not know much about stats...the BBC should be rather more competent than this article".

    You're assuming that each point on the graph is equally weighted, but since the points relate to countries and the countries vary hugely in population size, it is not legitimate to treat any country as an outlier. The combined population of the four countries you propose to remove is probably about the same as the combined population of all the remaining countries put together! As for the comment about the BBC, the graph comes from an article in the British Medical Journal, which I believe is quite knowledgeable about these things.

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  • 76. At 00:51am on 26 Feb 2011, oliver stieber wrote:

    maybe they should also ask how unhappy people are. just to make the question balanced.
    and also if they would be happier with less money, but also requiring less. (lower housing costs/cost of living) or maybe more time off work to spend with friends and family and more community, looking after your own kids, home schooling.... that kind of stuff that costs no money.

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  • 77. At 00:55am on 26 Feb 2011, Richard wrote:

    So... most people hate their jobs and have no way out of them, people hate commuting and find a meaningless pile of boring tasks at the end of the journey... I always said capitalism doesn't work. Yes I know it's better than living in North Korea, but tragically so much less than it could be. Sorry I don't have a super-utopian solution but really for most of the people in a wealthy, civilised nation like Britain, this is just pants! Revolution anyone? By the way they (revolutions) involve lots of hard work and meagre rations. Think you can cope?

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  • 78. At 01:11am on 26 Feb 2011, konakimbers wrote:

    can absolutely agree about the cycling thing
    on the very rare occasions i have to get public transport or even drive i find myself frustrated, considerably poorer and quite often late

    as for the cyclist bashers, while some cyclists are indeed muppets the majority are fine and lets face it your average anti-cycle bus/tube/car monkey is jealous of our freedom, slimmer waistlines and smug self satisfaction ;-)

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  • 79. At 08:39am on 26 Feb 2011, The Future Will Happen wrote:

    70. At 10:48pm on 25 Feb 2011, hectoring wrote:

    I used to cycle to work. A simple, short, urban, 45 minute bike ride each way. I was utterly miserable: endless traffic, terrible rain, several near misses with double deckers, general feeling of uneasiness in the daily mayhem that is peak traffic hour, often needing a shower before sitting at my desk, unable to wear the clothes I would have wanted to wear, sweating profusely or cold to the bone.

    ....

    I resorted to buying a motorcycle. Eureka! I halved the commute and gained a sense of freedom and entitlement that fills me with joy every day I go to work. And is cheaper than the bus too. There is nothing that fills my heart with happiness more than taking a scenic route home after a day at work on my bike, especially in summer evenings.

    ----------

    Surely, many of the problems you had on your bicycle are also a problem on your motorbike, like traffic, pollution, near accidents (statistically you'll have more on your motorbike) and the weather. And similarly, most of the pleasures you attribute to your motorbike, you would also have on your bicycle.

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  • 80. At 08:46am on 26 Feb 2011, The Future Will Happen wrote:

    When I lived in London, I found cycling to work improved my quality of life greatly when compared to taking the Tube. That was until someone nicked my bike (from inside our garden when it was locked to a railing). I went to the Stoke Newington Police station. The police officer at the desk told me there was no point in even reporting it, because they wouldn't do anything about it. But I insisted and he wrote down my details. He wrote down my occupation as "computors" (sic). I guess it's that kind of thing that makes the British unhappy!

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  • 81. At 08:51am on 26 Feb 2011, David H wrote:

    Cycling rather than driving does improve happiness. You don't need an expensive bike or clothing. I paid £90 for a new bike and cycle to work in normal clothes.

    It's hard to be happy when driving your car, your are wasting money and time and pumping out pollution that is shortening the lives of those aroud you.

    Get on your bike today and feel better straight away.

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  • 82. At 09:24am on 26 Feb 2011, forgottenukcitizen wrote:

    7. AnotherEngineer

    90 minutes; you’ve got it lucky Mate.
    Try 24 hours commute to somewhere in the Middle of West Africa at a moment’s notice; people don’t know they are born today.
    Yes, Tebbit would be proud.

    PS, they have real poverty down there & not the UK statistical variety.

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  • 83. At 09:38am on 26 Feb 2011, 1984Reject wrote:

    The problem with all this is that I don’t think you can measure happiness. It is too subjective.

    Measuring happiness by commuting times. What next?

    My personal experience of this is that I used to travel 10 minutes (one way) to work but disliked the job. Now I work 50 minutes (one way) from my place of employment but it is more than compensated by the fact I enjoy being there for my 8-hour day much more. I also utilise the time spent in the car by actually playing my iPod, tuning into the radio (well up on events around the world), listening to CD books (listen to all the great novels that you’ve never had the time to actually read!) and have even learnt the rudiments of Spanish (via self learning CDs). In fact I view the daily commute as ‘my time’. At the end (or start!) of the day, it is what you make it. That is, back to the subjectivity of attaining the state of happiness, or more accurately contentedness.

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  • 84. At 1:04pm on 26 Feb 2011, AllenT2 wrote:

    jr4412 wrote:

    "one figure (#18) shows that 90% or more of US Americans report being "in good health";"

    Where do you get that nonsense term from? We are called Americans, not "US Americans!"

    There is only one country with the name of America and the nationality American.

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  • 85. At 1:23pm on 26 Feb 2011, jr4412 wrote:

    AllenT2 #84.

    "Where do you get that nonsense term from? We are called Americans, not "US Americans!" There is only one country with the name of America and the nationality American."

    typical of an US American's perception of the world?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Americas

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  • 86. At 4:17pm on 26 Feb 2011, CPslashM wrote:

    How could we ever be happy? I think we need to be contented, at least some of the time. Unfortunately almost the entire marketing/advertising industry is bent on making us dissatisfied with life so we need to buy more products and services to put this right.

    It doesn't, of course, and we end up poorer.

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  • 87. At 7:48pm on 26 Feb 2011, TruthAboutExmouthEstate wrote:

    All I need to be happy is a short commute. Years ago I was miserable, traveling 90 minutes to work each way on a train. Moved into Central London, can walk to work or DLR it in about fifteen minutes, and anything else - VAT hike, the weather, ANYTHING - is a minor distraction.

    Commuting is stressful.

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  • 88. At 00:02am on 27 Feb 2011, AllenT2 wrote:

    jr4412 wrote:

    "typical of an US American's perception of the world?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Americas"

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Your remark was just as I expected.

    No, what is "typical" is the anti-Americanism from people that use such a derogatory term. It also explains the use in the first place, doesn't it?

    The discussion is about **countries**, not two continents called North America and South America. You do understand the difference between a country and two continents, right?

    There is only one country with the name of America and there is only one country with the nationality American. If you are looking to find things to support your anti-Americanism then at least try doing so with things that actually make sense.

    Or better yet, try working on eliminating your preconceived and biased "perception" of Americans. I guarantee you that you will be much happier. You may even learn a thing or two from an American.

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  • 89. At 02:04am on 27 Feb 2011, jr4412 wrote:

    AllenT2 #88.

    "..discussion is about **countries** ... only one country with the name of America.."

    last time I looked in the atlas it was called the 'United States of America'.

    now, carry on, go and insult me ("You do understand the difference between a country and two continents, right?"), your problem, not mine. :-)

    as for the rest of your comment, well, I think it speaks for itself.

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  • 90. At 02:18am on 27 Feb 2011, jr4412 wrote:

    AllenT2 #84.

    "Where do you get that nonsense term from? We are called Americans, not "US Americans!""

    to answer your question directly (since, although you think I might "even learn a thing or two"(#88) from you, you evidently couldn't retrieve the information yourself), Figure 18 of the aforementioned Young Foundation report refers to the 'United States'.

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  • 91. At 03:15am on 27 Feb 2011, AllenT2 wrote:

    jr4412 wrote:

    "last time I looked in the atlas it was called the 'United States of America'."

    The country is also simply called America, but I'm quite sure you know that.

    Mexico's full name is the United States of Mexico. Did your "atlas" tell you that? Do you refer to Mexicans as US Mexicans? Do you refer to Britons as Great Britons?

    "now, carry on, go and insult me ("You do understand the difference between a country and two continents, right?"), your problem, not mine."

    No, you are the one being insulting to Americans by using such a term, a term well known to be used by anti-Americans. A term used as an attack on the identity and nationality of Americans. Even when you have an American protesting your use of the term you still persist.

    "as for the rest of your comment, well, I think it speaks for itself."

    Yes, it does. It speaks of facts, common sense and manners.

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  • 92. At 03:24am on 27 Feb 2011, AllenT2 wrote:

    jr4412 wrote:

    "to answer your question directly (since, although you think I might "even learn a thing or two"(#88) from you, you evidently couldn't retrieve the information yourself), Figure 18 of the aforementioned Young Foundation report refers to the 'United States'."

    The US, or the "United States," is not the name of the country.

    And what does that has to do with you insultingly calling Americans US Americans?

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  • 93. At 03:51am on 27 Feb 2011, jr4412 wrote:

    AllenT2 #91.

    US American -- "..a term well known to be used by anti-Americans."

    evidence please.

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  • 94. At 04:36am on 27 Feb 2011, jr4412 wrote:

    AllenT2 #91.

    "Mexico's full name is the United States of Mexico. Did your "atlas" tell you that?"

    {smiles} 'United Mexican States' ('Estados Unidos Mexicanos')

    "Do you refer to Mexicans as US Mexicans?"

    no, that'd be inaccurate.

    "Do you refer to Britons as Great Britons?"

    very occasionally, typically though I'd use 'British' or 'Brits'.


    #92 "The US, or the "United States," is not the name of the country."

    I do not use "US" or "United States", I always use 'US of A' or 'United States of America'; feel free to search through all of my comments, they're available.

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  • 95. At 06:04am on 27 Feb 2011, sackofpotatoes wrote:

    I commute about 3 hours in total each day. It does not bother me very much because it means that I get to live in a lovely flat with a view of the sea and because the public transport system here is very good. I think what frustrates people about commuting is the lack of reliability and being herded like a cow. The underground trains here are twice as wide as London tubes, making it a much more pleasant experience to travel. I have also never had to wait more than 3 minutes for a train.

    If you want happier, less stressed people, then something will have to be done about the infrastructure.

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  • 96. At 5:17pm on 27 Feb 2011, AnotherEngineer wrote:

    When I mentioned commuting times before, I only included the people who get home every night. Someone else mentioned flying to Africa at short notice and we have been reminded in the last week that many UK citizens work for long periods in Libya etc. We should not forget, however, the large number of people in our own country, in many walks of life, who work away from home all week often for years on end. This is prevalent but not restricted to consultancy where there seems to be a rule that people always live at the opposite end of the country from where they live, adding to the cost to the client as well as inconveniencing the person. Travel on a train on Monday morning or Friday afternoon and see how many people there are in work clothes with a suitcase.
    I have chosen to live in a small village on the edge of the Cotswolds. It is within a half hour journey of a few towns but nowhere where I could work, so I have to commute if I want the advantage of village life. I do short term jobs so I am certainly not going to keep moving house at £30,000+ each time, plus I have gone to a lot of trouble to get the house how we want it – this one needed to be completely rebuilt; the previous one we built from scratch.
    So this aspect of life is like most a question of personal choice.

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  • 97. At 7:31pm on 27 Feb 2011, GeoffWard wrote:


    So, as GDP goes UP, the measure of Life Satisfaction goes DOWN......

    Hardly a surprise.
    In an increasingly polarised society the rich get richer as the GDP increases - there are relatively fewer of these than the poor who are getting poorer.
    So, the rich are satisfied and HAPPY! But the poor masses are unsatisfied and UNHAPPY.
    If there are 2, 3, ...4 times more poor than rich...let's guess what a survey of Life Satifaction will produce as the mean response in a stratified survey .................. Yeees!

    Gee, are'nt social surveys wonderful.

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  • 98. At 7:53pm on 27 Feb 2011, GeoffWard wrote:

    Re: comments #90-et seq (Allen T2/jr 4412):

    I live in America, but south of the equator.
    My Brazilian neighbours get quite upset if I call them Americans - but that's what they are.

    (Btw, Allen, are you a phage or a terminator? and jr, are you a plane crash or SID, the lysine degrader?)

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  • 99. At 9:03pm on 27 Feb 2011, Endgames wrote:

    Cameron should travel the length and breadth of the country without his security........he'd soon find out how happy people are...........

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  • 100. At 9:09pm on 27 Feb 2011, jr4412 wrote:

    GeoffWard #98.

    nice. ;-)

    (would 'crânio!' be correct?)

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  • 101. At 07:59am on 28 Feb 2011, FairWeatherSupporter wrote:

    I have skimmed the responses - Yes these things do affect us - but no mention of friendships? People actually knowing you and having someone you can be honest about who you are and your struggles in life, rather than putting on a mask and pretending all is OK.

    I read somewhere about 90% of males in the US don't have 1 friend who they can be really open with. I expect it is even higher in the UK. All looks OK - but most men in the UK are lonely. Now that really affects happiness.

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  • 102. At 11:12am on 28 Feb 2011, bigsammyb wrote:

    What patronising claptrap to hear David Cameron ask us if we are happy. Sure it is true that wealth is no measure of happiness or social cohesion and yes for sure there is more crime and social degradation in countries that are still relatively well off.

    But time and time again we see the true cause of social breakdown and misery:-

    INEQUALITY

    We have bags of inequality in the UK and it is the driver of anti social behaviour, drug use, alcoholism and misery.

    That is the issue, the fact most people have very little whilst our paymasters, the likes of Cameron as well as large corperations and banks, live in luxury.

    Talk of taking exercise or how far you travel to work is frankly insulting.

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  • 103. At 12:58pm on 28 Feb 2011, tinonline wrote:

    No job + limited opportunities + all savings gone + defunct capital system still in place + homeowner + insufficient government support = unhappiness

    An algorithm to calculate how the middle classes become disenfranchised.

    Bend down Mr Cameron and receive the Big Society...

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  • 104. At 4:21pm on 28 Feb 2011, holly_bush_berry wrote:

    #16 KateCopestake mentions the importance of sleep.

    It is enlightening to acknowledge that science has struggled with sleep. In the past twenty years or so we have had two opposite points of view, firstly with Thatcher and four hours sleep, and latterly the good side to eight hours of sleep. In between there are researchers who say it is the quality of the sleep that matters, and, if you can remember dreams, then your sleep probably wasn't deep enough. There are others who advocate periodic cat naps as a way of improving edge.

    Having experienced hypnosis I can certainly vouch that a medium trance lasting approximately twenty minutes is extremely refreshing when conducted in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing, so relaxation is also key. But is physical exercise so vital? Many people who commute do so on a crowded bus or train standing for a long time and trapsing up and down stairs or escalators, and are pretty exhausted at the end of it. A lot of exercise of the wrong kind or is it because people wake up pretty exhausted anyway?

    I'd like a lot more research done into how we are supposed to work before some silly politician convinces me they know what they are doing!

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  • 105. At 3:40pm on 01 Mar 2011, U14800543 wrote:

    I believe that nobody minds people getting rich, if only they didn't have to make so many people poor in order to be so! If society is to be improved then the government has got to stop the big companies, the wealthy few, impoverishing the majority. Parliament was set up to protect the people from the extravigance of the King and the aristocracy, has Parliament become the New King, and the wealthy in society the new aristocracy? The people in the Middle East are right to demand a chance to fulfill their aspirations, what about the poor and unemployed in this country? Obviously there is not a direct comparison, but to be poor in a rich country also denies people the opportunity to fulfill their aspirations! Capitalism is necessary, but surely outright greed is something society should condemn not applaud! Where is the balance when the elderly or poor cannot heat their homes and utilities are making Millions of pounds of profit, their greed is beeing allowed to deny other peoples need - is this our modern BIG SOCIETY ?!!

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  • 106. At 4:09pm on 01 Mar 2011, U14800543 wrote:

    Ooohps some spelling mistakes in last comment, but hope you got the gist! :)

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  • 107. At 12:26pm on 02 Mar 2011, Sandy B wrote:

    I really don't see how cycling to work in the rain or bitter cold, dodging traffic and getting to work dirty, disshevelled and stinking of sweat is going to make anyone happy. It would also mean having to get up earlier and get less sleep to get to work on time. No, not a good idea.

    What would make me happy is being able to work less hours, spend more time with my grandchildren and not get home from work feeling axhausted and not having anough energy to do anything except sit blankly in front of a computer or TV for hours. I do this but I know it doesn't make me happy at all.
    I think we should all be paid a bit more and expected, even encouraged to work less hours. I'm sure many people would agree that working long hours is definitely not good for our happines. If I could get paid the same as I get now but work three days a week instead of five I think I would be much happier. So I guess money sort of does buy happiness.

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  • 108. At 2:18pm on 02 Mar 2011, GoldenLeo wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 109. At 11:03pm on 02 Mar 2011, Euforiater wrote:

    The New Statesman, comment 105 - hits the nail on the head. Particularly important is equality because we all benefit from more overall equality, even the rich (presumably because they can feel better about their wealth when they see others can comfortably get by).
    The bit about sleep is important, too, and on that note I'm off to get some myself..

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  • 110. At 10:17pm on 10 Mar 2011, Eamon Sloan wrote:

    Health and Happiness isn't everything. I'd much rather be sarcastic.

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  • 111. At 02:01am on 22 Dec 2011, Paul Cody wrote:

    Have you ever had a Happy Baby share their natural Happiness with you ?
    How did that babies joy make you feel ?
    As we grow up we quickly depend on objects of desire to be Happy , when in fact we are much more Happy than we realize.

    To be Happy we must become aware of the people and events that make us Happy during our day. Are you Happy running, reading walking your dog, singing,laughing with friends and on and on.

    Do you share like a baby your Happiness with others to make them Happy ?

    Take 5 minutes every day to count how long you were Happy today. Do that for 30 days and you may not need the new car or ? to make you Happy

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