Despite the fact that the U.K. is about to implement some of the most savage economic cuts seen in over a generation, the British government is to roll out a survey to gauge the mood of its nationals. The brave move involves asking the Office of National Statistics to come up with some mood-sensing questions to add to its household survey, in a hope to discover just what it is that makes people happy. The idea behind it being that if the government knows what makes its citizens happy, it can then do more of it to increase the population’s wellbeing.
British Prime Minister David Cameron* has long spoken about GNH, or gross national happiness, something he feels is more important than GDP, and he’s not the only political leader interested in the concept. France’s President Sarkozy announced last year he would include happiness and quality of life ahead of his country’s economic prowess, as recommended by Nobel economists Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen.
According to a Canadian statistician in on the British discussions, “The U.K. plans are putting into action the two most important elements of the Stiglitz/Sen reports: systematically measuring subjective wellbeing as part of a broader national accounting system, and using these data to inform policy choices.” Sen has even been advising on the policy.
The commodity has already been measured on Facebook, and it will be a tough job for Britain’s independent national statistician, Jil Matheson, to come up with the right questions in order to take the nation’s emotional temperature, and find out just how fulfilled the nation is as a whole. According to a government source:
The aim is to produce a fresh set of data, some of it new, some of it using existing data sets currently not very well used, to be published–at a frequency to be decided–that assesses the psychological and physical wellbeing of people around the U.K. So that’s objective measurements of, for instance, how much recycling gets done around the U.K., alongside more subjective measures of psychology and attitudes.
Although stoical in the main, it can be said that there is a certain mercurial quality to the British character–although this, it can be said, is often down to the weather. That’s not true for everyone, however. Given the corruscating winters on offer in Scandinavia, it is Denmark, Finland and Norway which scored highest in Gallup’s recent survey of the world’s happiest countries.
[Image via A M Kuchling’s Flickrstream]
*Full disclosure: David Cameron’s my cousin.