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Happiness And Health: Two Paradoxes

Author

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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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Suggested Citation

  • Simone Borghesi & Alessandro Vercelli, 2012. "Happiness And Health: Two Paradoxes," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 26(2), pages 203-233, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jecsur:v:26:y:2012:i:2:p:203-233
    DOI: j.1467-6419.2010.00635.x
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1111/j.1467-6419.2010.00635.x
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Maurizio Pugno, 2007. "The Subjective Well-being Paradox: A Suggested Solution Based on Relational Goods," Chapters,in: Handbook on the Economics of Happiness, chapter 14 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-659, May.
    3. 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.
    4. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2006. "Income and happiness: Evidence, explanations and economic implications," PSE Working Papers halshs-00590436, HAL.
    5. Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1978. "Economic Growth and Social Welfare: The Need for a Complete Study of Happiness," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 31(4), pages 575-587.
    6. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1997:87:9:1491-1498_6 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1998:88:7:1074-1080_3 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Sabatini, Fabio, 2014. "The relationship between happiness and health: Evidence from Italy," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 178-187.
    2. repec:bla:etrans:v:25:y:2017:i:2:p:165-184 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Silke Boenigk & Marcel Lee Mayr, 2016. "The Happiness of Giving: Evidence from the German Socioeconomic Panel That Happier People Are More Generous," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 17(5), pages 1825-1846, October.
    4. Angelo Antoci & Mauro Sodini & Luca Zarri, 2014. "Relational consumption and nonlinear dynamics in an overlapping generations model," Decisions in Economics and Finance, Springer;Associazione per la Matematica, vol. 37(1), pages 137-158, April.
    5. Mariana De Santis & Ignacio Villagra Torcomian, 2014. "Condiciones económicas y capital social como determinantes de la salud y el bienestar subjetivo. El caso de Argentina durante 1995 y 2006," REVISTA CUADERNOS DE ECONOMÍA, UN - RCE - CID, August.
    6. 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.
    7. repec:eee:respol:v:47:y:2018:i:1:p:308-325 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Tavares, Aida Isabel, 2015. "Revisiting the inactivity - (un) happiness relationship, a cross-country exploratory analysis," MPRA Paper 67371, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. repec:spr:jhappi:v:18:y:2017:i:6:d:10.1007_s10902-016-9797-y is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Fulvio Castellacci & Vegard Tveito, 2016. "The Effects of ICTs on Well-being: A Survey and a Theoretical Framework," Working Papers on Innovation Studies 20161004, Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo.
    11. Guardiola, Jorge & García-Quero, Fernando, 2014. "Buen Vivir (living well) in Ecuador: Community and environmental satisfaction without household material prosperity?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 177-184.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D6 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics
    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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