Governments must prioritise mental health, claims landmark study on happiness

The research into more than 200,000 people said reducing mental health issues would not only benefit society, but also pay for itself

Governments must prioritise mental health, claims landmark study on happiness


While it has long been asserted that money is not the key to happiness, a new landmark study might finally prove it right. According to research carried out by the London School of Economics, examining responses from more than 20,000 people, most of human misery is down to failed relationships and physical and mental illness, rather than poverty and money problems.

According to the research, policymakers and elected officials should work to eradicate depression and anxiety, which would reduce our collective sense of misery by 20%, compared to only a 5% reduction for the same efforts on the elimination of poverty, the study found.

As the study’s lead author, Lord Richard Layard said that despite the average income more than doubling in the last half century, people are no happier than they were before. The economist claims the study, titled Origins of Happiness, shows that governments should prioritise legislative systems that measure people’s satisfaction with their lives.

The study also argues that diverting extra funds towards the reduction of mental health issues would ultimately be self-financing to the public exchequer, with increased employment and tax receipts bolstered by fewer medical expenses and hospital admissions.

“Tackling depression and anxiety would be four times as effective as tackling poverty. It would also pay for itself,” Layard said.

The LSE report, which examined data from the UK, the US, and Germany, argues that state-run organisations should become the frontline when it comes to tackling mental health issues, and everyday places like schools have a significant role to play when it comes to getting to grips with anxiety.

“This evidence demands a new role for the state – not ‘wealth creation’ but ‘wellbeing creation,’” said Layard. “In the past, the state has successively taken on poverty, unemployment, education and physical health. But equally important now are domestic violence, alcoholism, depression and anxiety conditions, alienated youth, exam mania and much else. These should become centre stage.”

Layard added that the pressure on children to meet expectations in education and how they are judged based on their performance in school is very damaging to society as a whole.

“The strongest factor predicting a happy adult life in not children’s qualifications but their emotional health. There is also powerful evidence that schools have a big impact on children’s emotional health, and which school a child goes to will affect their emotional wellbeing as much as it affects their exam performance.”

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