A call to add a well-being index to national economic measures

economics
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A trio of economists is suggesting that it is time to add a well-being index to national economic measures. Carol Graham with the Brookings Institution, Kate Laffan with the London School of Economics and Sergio Pinto with the University of Maryland have published a Perspective piece in the journal Science outlining their arguments for adding measurements such as degree of happiness to economic indicators.

What if the government of a country, such as the United States, releases glowing economic reports, but fails to include companion documents that outline how happy its residence are? Graham, Laffan and Pinto point out that judging the health of a country by its economic numbers alone does not give a true picture. For example, GDP numbers for the U.S. are currently high, while unemployment numbers are very low. Things must be good, right? If that is the case, why is the country experiencing such a high suicide rate? And why is life expectancy falling? They suggest that national economic reports need to be updated to include a well-being index (as opposed to the notorious misery index once proposed by economist Arthur Okun.) Including such an index would not be a flight of fancy, they note, it would offer policymakers a better frame of reference, or perhaps a warning light. If the powerhouse countries of the world had such an index, perhaps the global economic crises that started in 2008 could have been averted. They suggest that adding measures such as a well-being index is necessary for long-term sustainability.

The authors also note that well-being metrics have a come a long way over the past few decades and can offer policy-makers statistics at virtually every level of a society. They can also offer lawmakers pertinent information about social issues, which could come in handy during election cycles. They point out that now present a paradox—some numbers may show prosperity while others indicate something wildly different is going on. They suggest a well-being index could be a tool that helps to resolve such inconsistencies and note that some countries such as Bhutan have already climbed on board—officials there carry out a survey every five years to test the mood of the country. And the U.K. has been measuring national happiness since 2011. They suggest others follow the lead.


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This index measures progress and sustainability better than GDP

More information: Carol Graham et al. Well-being in metrics and policy, Science (2018). DOI: 10.1126/science.aau5234
Journal information: Science

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Oct 19, 2018
A "happiness index" is whatever you choose to make it, since happiness can be defined in multiple contradicting ways. It would be a political tool, not a real scientific indicator, as an arbitrarily defined concept of "well-being" would be likely to indicate support for whatever the policymakers wish to implement.

If that is the case, why is the country experiencing such a high suicide rate?


Ironically, countries that score at the top of various existing happiness indices also score high in suicide rates.

Oct 19, 2018
@eikka
Ironically, countries that score at the top of various existing happiness indices also score high in suicide rates
can ya point me to the studies for this?

thanks in advance

Oct 19, 2018
Ironically, countries that score at the top of various existing happiness indices also score high in suicide rates.


Uh, no:

Top 10 happiness ratings for 2018:
 1. Finland
 2. Norway
 3. Denmark
 4. Iceland
 5. Switzerland
 6. Netherlands
 7. Canada
8. New Zealand
 9. Sweden
 10. Australia

Top 10 for suicide:
1. Sri Lanka
2. Lithuania
3. Guyana
4. Mongolia
5. South Korea
6. Kazakhstan
7. Suriname
8. Belarus
9. Equatorial Guinea
10. Poland

Sources:
http://worldpopul...country/
https://en.wikipe...s_Report

Oct 19, 2018
Adding to the conversation, maybe they are not happy enough.

Manic limerany happens. An opioid addict is not in pain, where as a masochist can delay enough to align the modality of ambiguity to give their suffering meaning. We have a hard time telling pleasure from pain, when it comes to waiting out the downstream.

If there is to be a metric, it should not garner unearned wages, but should try to inspire healthy relationships with society. Addiction is everywhere, and to some extent a spectrum. We should not fake the statistics to be happier. Topos theory works only as well as the integrity of the data. Progressive maturity demands neutrality when judging any agency. It is about moving mediocrity to empower tendency towards the mean.

Finding what works to avoid complacency, but remain patient, with emergent goals of innovation, will be the programs that withstand. Information the commodity, the social construct decides.

Oct 19, 2018
The politics is so hateful in the US now that all our indicators are down.

Oct 19, 2018
Uh, no:

Top 10 happiness ratings for 2018:
1. Finland


Your ranking is of all nations which makes the comparison invalid because it includes some really terrible places to live with people under constant oppression, or under weird cultures of shame where killing yourself is a social norm (e.g. South Korea, Japan). Out of the OECD nations, Finland is above average in suicides and on par with France, which is not even in the top 10 list of happiest countries but at #23. It appears "happiness" has little if any correlation with suicide rates over comparable nations.

https://data.oecd...ates.htm

Oct 19, 2018
Finding what works to avoid complacency, but remain patient, with emergent goals of innovation, will be the programs that withstand. Information the commodity, the social construct decides.


Are you trying to pull off some sort of Sokal affair, or are you just a Markov chain?

Oct 19, 2018
Eikka
countries that score at the top of various existing happiness indices also score high in suicide rates


Eikka
It appears "happiness" has little if any correlation with suicide rates


Mmmm - bit contradictory there Eikka....

Oct 20, 2018
Skewed, data-massaged liberal pap.

Oct 20, 2018
Anyone who brings down the U.S., can't hack it there is a loser. There is nowhere with more opportunity. Ironically, the "nordic" countries where the so-called happiness index is highest are the most regimented countries outside of communist China or N. Korea. How anyone can be happy in such controlled societies is unreal. These societies keep people in the same box as people were kept in pre-1900's England.

Oct 20, 2018
...makes the comparison invalid because it includes some really terrible places to live... Out of the OECD nations...


You should hire yourself out as a goal post mover- you do a really good job of it. No surprise, really- looking back through your posts, it's one of your favorite tactics to support your constantly contrarian viewpoint. There's no point in continuing to try finding value in your comments.

Oct 20, 2018
Paragraph 2. You talk about how happy "residence" are. Sweetie, how can anyone take your article seriously, when you don't proofread your own text? The word is "residents". Duh.

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