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Study Finds People are Returning to Previous Happiness Levels Despite Less Income and Wealth

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Don't believe the Corporatocracy hype: despite lower incomes and wealth, the lower velocity life is leading to richer life experiences and, ultimately, the same level of happiness as before. At least that's part of the findings in a paper recently published by Yew-Kwang Ng,
of the Dept. of Economics at Monash University.

The paper (see the full thing here h/t: today's BloombergBrief), titled "Happiness Is Universal, Unidimensional, CardinallyMeasurable and Interpersonally Comparable: A Basis for the Environmentally Responsible Happy Nation Index," -- a real mouthful that! -- begins from a point that psychologists, sociologists and economists all finally agree upon: Per-capita GDP is an imperfect measure of economic welfare and happiness.

OK, makes sense. We pretty much knew that already, intuitively anyway.

So, here's the remarkable thing about this paper. We've been warned (hand raised) for years about the possibilities of "becoming the next Japan," or falling into a new "lost decade." But here's the thing, those warnings and threats have no correlation to happiness. How can that be? If we are working less, making less, able to save less, forced to draw from what little savings we have, enduring decades of economic stagnation, how could all of those things not result in meaningful declines in happiness?

Two important points from this paper:

1) "Recent studies on happiness by psychologists, sociologists and economists have more or less reached a near consensus that "per-capita GDP is an imperfect index of economic welfare ... Its weaknesses are more serious than many believe" (Frank 2011). I used to think that the rate of growth in per-capita GDP would probably be a better measure. However, the results of Easterlin (2011), Graham & Lora (2009) and others suggest that the reverse may be closer to the truth. Graham & Lora call this the “paradox of unhappy growth.”
The paradox of unhappy growth sounds suspiciously like the "hamster mill" of debt-fueled growth that relies on an unsustainable ever-increasing velocity to maintain itself. We are now seeing the impact of the end of that ever-increasing velocity.

Second, and most critical and applicable to us today:

2) Also, over the past two and a half decades of economic stagnation, Japan has actually climbed up the happiness or life satisfaction scale very sharply. Before its economic stagnation commencing around the end of 1980's, Japan scored at or close to the bottom of the happiness scale. For the World Values Survey 1994, happiness index in Japan reaches just-below-average. By the surveys over 2002 - 2004, happiness index for Japan already reaches above average (Leigh & Wolfers 2006). On the other hand, from 1987-2004, average working hours in Japan decrease 0.7% per annum, and a cumulated reduction of much more than 10% in all. Perhaps, realizing their futile quest for higher incomes by working too hard, the Japanese have slowed down and achieved much higher levels of happiness. (Emphasis added.)
In other words, after abandoning the Corporatocracy's treadmill -- the false promises of media, of advertisements buried in advertisements and displayed to a passive audience programmed to want for want's sake -- we slow down just long enough to discover that the never-ending pursuit of material goods isn't really what we signed up for. 
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.

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