If Cameron wants to spread happiness, he should narrow the gap between rich and poor
Posted on 8 January 2012 | 7:01am
Thank you for all the nice comments on twitter about the Guardian piece yesterday, an extract from my new ebook, The Happy Depressive, which is out on Thursday. The extract focused on Philip Gould, and what I feel I had learned from knowing him, and from seeing him face up to death with such humility and insight.
As I say in the piece, I had been of the view long before Philip became ill that it is only as we near the end of our lives that we can truly decide whether we have lived happy ones. But his death certainly confirmed me in that view.
Among the comments, alongside similar comments in response to my blog of Friday confirming I had been going through a bout of depression, were a fair few saying it was ‘brave’ to be open about mental health issues. Well, if it helps someone else for someone like me to be open about depression, that is great but if I am being totally frank with you, it also helps me. The selfless part of me, again as I say in the ebook, wants to work with others to break down stigma and taboo surrounding mental illness. But the selfish part feels better in sharing problems when they arise.
It has been quite odd in a way, to have had so much negative coverage down the years for all sorts of things, and yet when it comes to admitting to mental illness – for which most people assume they are likely to be shunned – I have felt anything but. People are actually very nice about it and so, in the main, are the media.
I wasn’t surprised The Guardian went for the stuff about Philip, and I am not complaining. But the ebook is not just about personal relationships and personal issues. It is also goes into what politics and politicians can do on the happiness front. A lot is happening in this area.
Don’t worry, I have not gone soft, but I do think it is interesting that David Cameron has added happiness to the list of factors which have to be taken into account when policy makers are devising policy. It is quite a bold move at a time like this. It remains to be seen if he is serious in seeing this through but I am willing to take him at his word, and hope that he is. Because as I argue in The Happy Depressive, with plenty of evidence to back up the argument, if policymakers are serious about spreading happiness, the best way to do it is to narrow the gap betwwen rich and poor.
I publish a couple of graphs which show that wheras GDP per head has grown substantially, happiness has pretty much flatlined. When people are seeing their income rise to what might be seen as middle class levels, happiness rises alongside it. But further rises tend not to deliver extra happiness.
Regulars here will be well used to reading the comments of our Finnish friend Olli Issakeinen. He is quoted in the book, from the time he commented on a previous blog on happiness that ‘unhappiness seems to be the ultimate luxury.’
Money can’t buy me love and all that. On that happy note, off to Bristol to film for my documentary on why Brits drink so much!