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Happiness and health: two paradoxes

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  • Simone Borghesi

    ()

  • Alessandro Vercelli

    ()

Abstract

This paper aims to establish systematic relationships between the two rapidly growing research streams on the socio-economic determinants of happiness and health. Although they have been pursued quite independently by different communities of researchers, empirical evidence points to very similar underlying causal mechanisms. In particular, in both cases per capita income plays a major role only up to a very low threshold, beyond which relative income and other relational factors become crucial for happiness and health. In addition, we argue that the so-called “paradox of happiness”, extensively discussed in the first research stream, has an empirical counterpart in the decoupling between self-reported happiness and health indexes: while life expectancy grew almost continuously in developed countries after World War II, self reported happiness did not increase and sometimes even decreased. On the basis of these structural analogies, we argue that a process of cross-fertilization between these two research streams would contribute to their development by clarifying the relationship between happiness, health and their determinants. Finally, we observe that the two literatures have converging policy implications: measures meant to reduce poverty and inequality and invest in social and environmental capital may improve both health and happiness of the individuals.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economic Policy, Finance and Development (DEPFID), University of Siena in its series Department of Economic Policy, Finance and Development (DEPFID) University of Siena with number 0108.

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Date of creation: Dec 2007
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Handle: RePEc:usi:depfid:0108

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Keywords: happiness; health; happiness paradox; poverty; inequality; relational goods.;

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  1. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-59, May.
  2. Daniel Kahneman & Alan B. Krueger, 2006. "Developments in the Measurement of Subjective Well-Being," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 3-24, Winter.
  3. Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1978. "Economic Growth and Social Welfare: The Need for a Complete Study of Happiness," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 31(4), pages 575-87.
  4. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2006. "Income and happiness: Evidence, explanations and economic implications," PSE Working Papers halshs-00590436, HAL.
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Cited by:
  1. Angelo Antoci & Mauro Sodini & Luca Zarri, 2014. "Relational consumption and nonlinear dynamics in an overlapping generations model," Decisions in Economics and Finance, Springer, vol. 37(1), pages 137-158, April.
  2. Katalin Martinás, 2012. "Greatest Happiness Principle in a Complex System Approach," Interdisciplinary Description of Complex Systems - scientific journal, Croatian Interdisciplinary Society Provider Homepage: http://indecs.eu, vol. 10(2), pages 88-102.

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