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BBC TWO's Making Slough Happy reveals final happiness levels to be up by a third

Category: Factual & Arts TV

Date: 05.12.2005
Printable version

For the past three months the Berkshire town of Slough has been home to an ambitious social experiment; a happiness journey which tomorrow night on BBC TWO reaches its climax with the final measurement of the 50 volunteers.


From unknown territory, Making Slough Happy's bold social experiment has revealed remarkable results, with the group's overall shift in happiness from the beginning to the end of the project finally revealed at a 33 per cent upward shift.


There will also be a lasting legacy for the town, with the Borough Council agreeing to measure, on an annual basis, the happiness levels of their citizens.


At regular intervals during the past three months the happiness levels of the 50 volunteers who participated in the project were measured to chart the progress of the group.


For the six specialists, spanning a variety of disciplines from psychology to economics, who have been working to try and improve the happiness levels of people in the Berkshire town of Slough, these results are proof that their ideas, workshops and interventions did have a positive impact on the volunteers.


At the start of the experiment, Dr Richard Stevens revealed that on the key question of life satisfaction - a question for which data has been collated from around the world - the group returned an average rating of 6.4, well below the UK average and just below the level for China.


In the final programme, it is revealed that the group's level on this key point of life satisfaction has risen to a positively healthy 8.1, in line with the two happiest nations in the world - Denmark and Switzerland. 


Making Slough Happy followed six happiness specialists, as they used what they believed to be the ingredients of happiness - the data, facts, ideas and theories culled from global happiness research - and put this into practice on real people in a real town. 


This four part observational documentary followed the team comprising: psychologist Dr Richard Stevens, psychotherapist Brett Kahr, Richard Reeves, whose expertise spans philosophy, public policy and economics, work place specialists Jessica Pryce-Jones and Philippa Chapman and social entrepreneur Andrew Mawson OBE


Spreading happiness from the streets, at work, to schools and even the aisles of a local supermarket, the team has ambitiously aimed for far reaching results, which culminates in the grand finale in Slough Town square on Tuesday 6 December.


For one of the experts, in particular, the challenge was twofold.


Richard Reeves comments: "The dramatic change in the volunteers' happiness is powerful proof of what this experiment has achieved, but it was also important to find a lasting legacy for the town, and look at what broader lessons could be learnt from this project.


"Exciting developments have sprung from our small roots, including the Borough Council's agreement to continue to measure, via questionnaires, the happiness levels of their citizens on an annual basis.


"This is a ground-breaking initiative, and one which will hopefully push happiness on to the social and political agenda."


The conclusion of Making Slough Happy is on BBC TWO at 9.00pm on Tuesday 6 December 2005


Notes to Editors


Making Slough Happy is an Optomen Production for BBC TWO.


A book, How to be Happy, is published by BBC Books.


Volunteers: increasing the happiness levels of an entire town is a tall order, so the team focused on 50 volunteers, who reflect a cross section of the local community, as well as a range of moods. 


Measuring the happiness of the Slough volunteers


Central to this science is the belief that happiness can be measured. 


In the series, the happiness levels of the Slough volunteers was measured before, during and after the end of the project to assess whether the team's methods had been effective.


The experts selected two established tests of life satisfaction and constructed three further tests of happiness and mood especially for the project. 


The advantage of the simple question on life satisfaction is that it made it possible to compare the responses of people from different countries. 


The World Database on Happiness gathered by researchers at Erasmus University in Rotterdam records a variety of scores on satisfaction with life. 


These measures are expressed on a ten point scale and in rank order, along with the year of study:


Denmark = 8.3 (2003)

Switzerland = 8.1 (1996)

Ireland = 7.7 (2003)

Canada = 7.8 (2000)

USA = 7.7 (1999)

Norway = 7.6 (1996)

Netherlands = 7.5 (2003)

Britain = 7.3 (2003)

France = 6.9 (2003)

China = 6.5 (2001)

Romania = 6.2 (2003)

Hungary = 5.9 (2003)

Turkey = 5.6 (2003)

Latvia = 5.5 (2003)

Russia = 4.7 (1999)

Bulgaria = 4.4 (2003)

Zimbabwe = 4.0(2001)






Category: Factual & Arts TV

Date: 05.12.2005
Printable version


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