DO A COUNTRY’S inhabitants get happier as it gets richer? Most governments seem to believe so, given their relentless focus on increasing GDP year by year. Reliable, long-term evidence linking wealth and happiness is, however, lacking, and measuring well-being is itself fraught with problems, since it often relies on surveys that ask participants to assess their own levels of happiness subjectively.
Previous research has shown that people’s underlying levels of happiness are reflected in what they say or write, but although increasing national income is important to happiness, it is not as important as ensuring the population is healthy and avoiding conflict. Health, life expectancy and security matter even more.