In the past 50 years individual levels of wealth have increased by but so have crime, deprivation, depression and addictions to alcohol and drugs. Most of us believe that more money will make us happier; however, as societies become richer, does that wealth positively impact on our happiness?
The 'Recession: health and happiness' event on 26th February, may well provide a surprising answer. Lord Professor Richard Layard who has spent years researching the impact of wealth on wellbeing will argue the answer is 'not necessarily'.
Professor Layard's view is that the ultimate aim of public policy is to make people happier, so he will be addressing issues such the impact of 'welfare to work' programmes, and will feature the evidence looking at how positive experiences can help prevent the most negative effects of unemployment. He will be speaking at the first of three events organised by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of the Festival of Social Science.
Chaired by economist and journalist, Evan Davies, of BBC Radio Four's Today programme and Dragons Den, attendees will also hear from Professor Mel Bartley of UCL's Department of Public Health, whose work has included research on health inequalities.
At the outside of the present recession, 16% of working age men were already permanently sick, in contrast to 1980 when it was 8%, so Professor Bartley will discuss the how the effects of the recession vary widely between socio-demographic groups and considers evidence that the health effects seem to be worse for younger people. Professor Bartley's research shows that stability in work impacts positively on health and well being.
Also speaking at the event will be Professor Andrew Oswald, Professor of Economics at Warwick University, who recently reviewed the evidence on the main influences on the psychological wellbeing of individuals and nations, and discusses to what extent economic growth improves psychological wellbeing or happiness.
The event will provide an opportunity to participate in the discussion regarding the social issues that will arise in the coming months as a consequence of the global economic crisis.