United States government urged to ask people about their state of happiness

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 December, 2013, 7:31am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 December, 2013, 7:31am

A panel of experts thinks the US government should be more in touch with Americans' feelings.

By gauging happiness, there'd be more to consider than cold hard cash when deciding matters that affect daily lives, according to a report by the National Academy of Sciences, which advises the government.

The panel of economists, psychologists and other experts assembled by the academy recommended that federal statistics and surveys, which normally deal with income, spending, health and housing, include a few extra questions on happiness.

"You want to know how people are doing?" said panel chairman Arthur Stone, a professor of psychology at New York's Stony Brook University. "One of the things you may want to do is ask them."

The panel suggests a series of questions to measure daily happiness and general well-being, asking how often you smiled, were stressed, laughed or were in pain. Example questions ranged from a simple yes-no "Yesterday, did you spend time with friends or family?" to a more complex 1-10 rating for "Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?"

Over the past decade, these types of questions have shown to be valid scientifically, said Carol Graham, a Brookings Institution economist who was on the panel.

The report said the answers can help governments shape policy on basic benefits, such as retirement age and pensions, care for the chronic and terminally ill, unemployment and working conditions.


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