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My Pet Peeve with Happiness Research

April 25, 2013, 9:00 AM

A pet peeve that I have in the context of happiness research is that it’s called happiness research.

I think the word "happiness" doesn’t mean all that much because it confounds satisfaction with life with mood. But more importantly, I think the word conveys a frivolous idea of what the social importance of it is.  

I think that you can really debate legitimately whether it is in the business of government to make people happy, but I think there will be a great deal more agreement if we say that it is the business of government to reduce misery in society.

And so in a way I think that we would be better off if we called it "suffering research" rather than well-being research.  It would have more impact on policy.  It would be simpler to implement. I think it would be a great deal more effective and it would point us to the importance of unemployment, the importance of loneliness and the importance of mental health as major sources of suffering that need to be addressed at the social level.

60 Second Reads is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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My Pet Peeve with Happiness...

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