Monday, 25 July 2011

Measuring happiness... again

So, let me see if I get it right: the economy of the country is in a pretty bad shape, cuts are going to affect us all and pensions are more than likely to become an urban legend. Quity possibly this will impact our wellbeing: the mental one, as more and more public library will be impacted by cuts, and possibly the physical one as well... hey who needs the NHS after all? Let's cut it all!
It might look quite a gloomy outlook, but fear not, the government has a plan: they are going to keep everything under check by measuring the country happiness. 
Well no, it's not that David Cameron is going to knock one day at my door and ask: "Hello dear, how are you feeling today? Chirpy? Moody? Upset? Happy?" 
Probably aware of the number of people that might slightly resent the questions, the government asked the Office for National statistics to do the job: for merely
£2m a year they're going to interview 200K people and ask them to rate from 1 to 10 the following questions:

• how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?
• how happy did you feel yesterday?
• how anxious did you feel yesterday?
• to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?



They started in April and we'll get the results in July next year.

I have many witty (and non) things I could write about this whole story and the questions above, but I'm not sure I feel up to it. 
Should I just wonder whether it's a way to track the results of the "action for happiness" movement or just get upset thinking about how my council will cut the library and many other services, while this people get £2m a year to ask 4 questions?
I had a peaceful weekend of little things: I bought the last 7" by Wilco and Bruce Springsteen's "Working on a Dream" LP, I enjoyed an unexpected sunshine over Sunday, I had some nice Cannonau from Sardinia... Nothing big and special, you see, but yesterday evening I really felt that I spent some good and peaceful time and now I fear of spoiling it. I can already feel everyday life have started eroding this sense of well-being and blessed balance I built up in the past 72 hours.

It's once more back to this notion that you can measure happiness. Can we really do so? Can you really give a score to something so personal and difficult to grasp such as happiness? Will the overlap of a (quite superficial) statistical notion of well being and the personal feeling of happiness prove anything, aside that £2m for this research is a waste of public money?

I don't need anybody to tell me how happy or unhappy I am, I need the economical and social conditions to be put in place by the power to be so that I have a fair chance of reaching and maintaining a state of happiness. But I bet that costs so much more...

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