Monday, April 09, 2007

What makes you happy?

Our modest little Church was looking quite attractive this morning

I was quite happy yesterday. The Easter ceremonies all went very well and we had a massive attendance despite so many of our parishioners being away. In addition to the Reception and adult baptism at the Easter Vigil we had three more baptisms during the 11.30am Mass. After the morning Masses we tucked into a fantastic lunch prepared by one of our parishioners who also provided a very nice bottle of wine - particularly welcome since I had given up alcohol for Lent. All that followed by a quick snooze in the afternoon followed by some Office, some prayer and a trip to visit some friends whom I hadn't seen for some time and who had invited me over.

While there I was shown an article in the Sunday Times on happiness. You can read the whole article here. The reason it is interesting is that research seems to suggest that economic well-being has no effect on people's happiness. The article puts the point strongly:
Public expenditure, leisure time, crime, gender inequality, income inequality, depression — none of these is correlated with measures of happiness over time. If we believe that the data over time on recorded happiness have any real meaning, they suggest one thing very strongly: attempts to improve the human lot by social and economic policy are a monumental exercise in futility.

But that's not all. It goes on to identify two factors that positively affect people's overall happiness. What are they? The first is marriage. Married people are on the whole happier than those alone or in 'relationships'. The second is religion. People who have faith are happier than those who are not:

Marriage makes people far less likely to suffer psychological illness, and more likely to live much longer and be both healthier and happier.
The benefits are confined to those who are married rather than cohabiting. And these benefits are large. In terms of health, for example, the longevity effect of marriage may even offset the consequences of smoking. Religious faith also has a distinct positive effect on happiness.

The author of the article draws some pretty obvious conclusions but ones we rarely hear these days:

In so far as policy conclusions can be drawn at this stage of happiness research, they seem to imply increased support for marriage, reductions in incentives to single parents and the promotion of faith schools. It’s hardly the mix that is usually heard from the liberal advocates of wellbeing policies.

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