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Happiness, health and productivity

Professor Andrew Oswald, Department of Economics

Published October 2010

The work of Professor Andrew Oswald was put forward as a Economics and Econometrics Impact Case Study as part of the University of Warwick's submissions to the Research Excellence Framework, 2014. His research into economics, happiness and wellbeing has shaped public attitudes and understanding of happiness and has driven policy makers to consider happiness and well-being as legitimate policy goals in the UK and abroad. In this interview from 2010 he asks, "Are we more anxious now than our parents were at the same age?" and analyses the links between health, happiness and productivity.

Woman jumping in a fieldA 2010 report issued by Relate, the counselling charity, found that people are suffering from ‘mid-life crises’ earlier than before, hitting people in the age range of 35-44 and not just those in late forties/early fifties. They found that 20 percent of that group have suffered from depression and the same amount ‘feel lonely a lot of the time’. Some of the suffering individuals put this down to long working hours and consequently not spending enough time with their family.

Professor Andrew Oswald, Department of Economics, has been analysing the causal links between happiness, health and productivity. He has found that the levels of psychological stress have risen significantly since the early 1990s. At the same time the proportion of those in high-strain jobs has gone up. A typical person’s happiness declines throughout their early adulthood before rising again when they enter into old-age. It cannot be concluded, however, that there is a simple link between stressful jobs and unhappiness. The state of the nation has an impact as well. It is a well reported result that average happiness does not increase with gross domestic product (GDP), but is better correlated with how equitable a society is.

Moving on from the causes, Andrew is thinking critically about how stress is impacting our health and productivity.

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Professor Andrew OswaldAndrew Oswald is a professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick and a senior fellow with the Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE). His work lies mainly at the border of economics and behavioural sciences but, on occasion, ventures into primatology.


Image: Jumping by (via Flickr)