Smile or dieby Lynne Segal / December 12, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
Can we measure happiness? Since David Cameron lauded “General Well-Being” (GWB), over GDP, the official view has been yes. In November, the Office for National Statistics reported that we are generally slightly happier since the Brexit result—at least in England. There’s a surprise!
I say that as most of those I encounter on social media and elsewhere could hardly express greater misery over Brexit; they may admittedly not be the perfect cross-section. But their gloom echoes the miseries assailing the wider population that I encounter in daily news coverage. One figure from another government-funded project, states that one in four girls suffer from clinical depression by the age of 14, another survey that half of all 11-18-year-old girls experience online bullying. Suicides among men continue to rise—closely correlated with their economic exposure. Other reports tell me that fear of the future is rendering the UK economy stagnant; while MI5 warns us that Britain faces its most severe terrorist threat. Alongside this daily diet of gloom, I note that dystopic fantasies dominate the popular imagination, never expectations of a better world. Blade Runner, The Hunger Games, The Handmaid’s Tale draw in the crowds, by depicting future disaster.
Happiness, it would seem, is measured and fed back to us despite, or is it because of, the misery we know to surround us. More-over, there are reasons to suspect that the current stress on happiness can itself…