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Economists Put a Price on Happiness

Originally Published 23 January 2003

Health is our most valuable asset, according to new research by the University of Warwick published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, today. The journal, edited by the Department of Social Medicine at the University of Bristol, includes an innovative study that estimates the equivalent monetary cost of various life events such as marriage, divorce and widowhood. The study, conducted by Professor Andrew Oswald and Andrew Clark of the University of Warwick, found that:

  • Marriage brings the same amount of happiness as £70,000 income per year
  • Widowhood brings a degree of unhappiness that would take £170,000 per year to offset
  • Separation would take an additional income of £132,000 to offset
  • A major decline in health is equivalent to a loss of half a million a year

The monetary values were calculated by analysing data from the British Household Panel Survey using a statistical method that brings together the fields of Economics and Psychology.

The authors found that the factor most strongly related to happiness and well-being is health. They also found that unemployment is extremely psychologically costly - over and above the direct loss of the pay packet.

Professor Shah Ebrahim, co-Editor of the International Journal of Epidemiology said: "Happiness is of concern to all of us, and Oswald's paper breaks new ground in examining its determinants. The International Journal of Epidemiology aims to promote novel work of this nature that is accessible and of relevance to a wide readership."

For further details please contact:

Prof. Andrew Oswald, Department of Economics,

University of Warwick. Tel: 02476 523 510

Email: Andrew.Oswald@warwick.ac.uk

Prof. Shah Ebrahim, Department of Social Medicine

University of Bristol. Tel: 0117 928 7350. E-mail: shah.ebrahim@bristol.ac.uk

Notes for editors:

The International Journal of Epidemiology is a key journal in the field of epidemiology and public health and published six times per year by Oxford University Press. It is edited at the Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol

The paper is entitled "A simple statistical method for measuring how life events affect happiness." By Andrew E Clark and Andrew J Oswald, IJE 2002, Vol 31 No 6 pp1139-1143. For a copy of the paper, please contact Barbara Coatesworth at the IJE editorial office, on 0117 928 7370. Copies of the paper are also available at: http://www.ije.oupjournals.org