The Japanese government is attempting to end Japan's culture of "death by overwork" (now known as karoshi) by moving to make it illegal to not take mandatory paid vacation days. Why won't Japanese workers go on vacation? The Japanese work some of the longest hours in the world and fear taking paid holidays in case they are ostracised by colleagues. The stress is so extreme that every year thousands of workers succumb to “karoshi”, or “death by overwork”. They either commit suicide (the see suicide as salvation), or die of a stroke or a heart attack. The Japanese are literally dying for work and the phenomenon is spreading to other Asian countries such as China, South Korea, and Bangladesh. A "chapter" of the award winning documentary "Happy" (now on Netflix and other online venues) looks at this Japanese phenomenon of Karoshi. HAPPY (trailer here) takes you on a journey from the swamps of Louisiana to the slums of Kolkata in search of what really makes people happy. Combining real life stories of people from around the world and powerful interviews with the leading scientists in happiness research, HAPPY explores the secrets behind our most valued emotion.
Happyism: The Creepy New Economics of Pleasure. Economist Dierdre McCloskey, in the New Republic, digs into the mathematical underpinnings of the scientific study of happiness. Executive summary: she doesn't like what she finds.
"We infer that beyond about $75,000/y, there is no improvement whatever in any of the three measures of emotional well-being." Two social scientists at Princeton, Angus Deaton and Nobelist Daniel Kahneman, have a new paper in PNAS about money and the determinants of happiness. Increased income above $75,000 is not associated with higher subjective happiness, though it is associated with superior scores on measures of overall life satisfaction. Other tidbits: "Religion has a substantial influence on improving positive affect and reducing reports of stress, but no effect on reducing sadness or worry... The presence of children at home is associated with significant increases in stress, sadness, and worry."
Moving beyond GDP for an information-based society - If indeed[1,2] "A 'Quantum Leap' in Governance" is needed then, as part of the solution, we might start looking past GDP[5,6] and perhaps more toward "betterness instead of business, pursue awesomeness instead of innovation — and maximize good, instead of quarterly profits..." [more inside]
The Happy Planet Index presents an alternative to GDP for measuring standard of living. It ranks countries by measuring life expectancy and self-reported life satisfaction against an "ecological footprint" needed to support that country's lifestyle. The press release claims that well-being is not based on high levels of consumption, but many don't agree. Full report in PDF here. Vanuatu tops the charts, while Zimbabwe and Swaziland lie at bottom. Critiques here, here, here, and here. A critique of happiness indices generally here.
Happy Happy (both pdf) The burgeoning field of happiness studies is unearthing all sorts of interesting findings, many of them summarized in these two articles by University of British Columbia economist & "Professor of Happiness" John Helliwell. Rich countries are not happier than poor countries; people tend to revert to the mean after a happy event; money has only a modest effect on happiness; and, hey, good news! you get happier as you get older.
The Gross International Happiness Project. An idea inspired by Gross National Happiness, the Kingdom of Bhutan's alternative to GDP.