Relationship status and mental health are both more significant contributors to an individual’s overall contentment than economic factors, according to analysis by the London School of Economics (LSE).
The study was based on several international surveys which asked 200,000 people around the globe to determine how different factors had an impact on their wellbeing.
The investigation found that doubling a person’s income raised their happiness by under 0.2 points, on a scale of 0-10. It suggested individuals care largely about their income relative to other people, so general increases in income have very small impacts on the overall happiness of the people.
Conversely, unemployment reduces the happiness of each unemployed person by about 0.7 points on average.
Mental health is the biggest single predictor of individual happiness. The study found suffering from depression or anxiety disorders is more common than unemployment and it also reduces happiness by 0.7 points.
Having a partner also raises happiness by 0.6 points, and losing a partner by separation or death reduces happiness by a roughly equal amount, the study found.
Report co-author Richard Layard said: “The evidence shows that the things that matter most for our happiness and for our misery are our social relationships and our mental and physical health. This demands a new role for the state – not ‘wealth creation’ but ‘wellbeing creation’.
“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.”
The findings will be discussed at a conference at the LSE this week with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.