You can not survey happiness

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Despite being unable to track down more than four questions from David Cameron’s Happiness Index (is this the whole survey?) I am confident in my conclusion that you can not measure happiness in a survey. I am sure the Office of National Statistics undertook an appropriate statistical analysis of the data, but an algorithm to compensate for human nature? I am not convinced.

How satisfied are you with your life nowadays?
To what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?

My favourite two questions (above) require a high degree of introspection, and evaluation of self-worth. It would take an awful lot of character to put pen to paper and admit to oneself (let us forget that this is a survey for Mr. Cameron) that not only are you unhappy with the raw end of the stick life dealt you, but that the rut of your daily grind brings you as much joy as being stuck in Madame Tussauds with only the glassy-eyed smiling heads of George Osbourne and Gordon Brown to keep you company.

David, you make me so happy

I wish I was happy

We all need a reason to get out of bed in a morning, and a little fib assuring yourself that today will be worthwhile, even though the whole of last week/month/year was basically just a pain in the ass, is how we do it. If people are not honest with themselves, I am as positive as a proton that they will not make a special effort for Cameron’s Happiness Index.

Today’s happiness rating, glass of wine in hand: 10/10
Tomorrow morning’s happiness rating, wet feet before work: 0/10

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2 thoughts on “You can not survey happiness

  1. Hi Karl

    Yes it does seem to be a waste of time trying to measure happiness because of the methodological and philosophical hurdles involved. However, I’m still looking forward to seeing what kind of results this index yields. It also marks a different way of measuring the ‘wealth’ of the country in non-economic terms.

    Yet, I remain skeptical about how what sort of knowledge will be generated from this and how it will be used. If nothing else, it may provide some work for us critical psychologists!

    Gareth

  2. Hi Gareth,

    I think an alternative measure of wealth would be most welcome as you say, though how you measure this I have no idea. I think that is one for you guys and not me.

    The survey unfortunately is very subjective and this will obviously impact on the validity of the results hugely. The inability of such a simple uncontrolled survey to take into account immediate environmental factors like cold feet, the time of day, whether you are in a rush etc etc….never mind more complex issues, generates so many problems for drawing valid conclusions.

    Maybe I should not worry so much about the details and take solace in the fact that Cameron is at least starting to look at wealth in broader terms than just money.

    Also, you may find this interesting: http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/ I am sure you have seen it, but they are an organisation looking at reducing the rich/poor divide. A key feature in ‘happiness’ ratings in the western world.

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