IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Are you happy while you work?


  • Bryson, Alex
  • MacKerron, George


Recent work in psychology and economics has investigated ways in which individuals experience their lives. This literature includes influences on individuals’ momentary happiness. We contribute to this literature using a new data source, Mappiness (, which permits individuals to record their wellbeing via a smartphone. The data contain more than a million observations on tens of thousands of individuals in the UK, collected since August 2010. We explore the links between individuals’ wellbeing measured momentarily at random points in time and their experiences of paid work. We explore variation in wellbeing within-individual over time having accounted for fixed unobservable differences across people. We quantify the effects of working on individuals’ affect relative to other activities they perform. We consider the effects of working on two aspects of affect: happiness and relaxation. We find paid work is ranked lower than any of the other 39 activities individuals engage in, with the exception of being sick in bed. Although controlling for other factors, including person fixed effects, reduces the size of the association its rank position remains the same and the effect is still equivalent to a 7-8% reduction in happiness relative to circumstances in which one is not working. Paid work has a similar though slightly larger negative impact on being relaxed. However, precisely how unhappy or anxious one is while working depends on the circumstances. Wellbeing at work varies significantly with where you work (at home, at work, elsewhere); whether you are combining work with other activities; whether you are alone or with others; and the time of day or night you are working.

Suggested Citation

  • Bryson, Alex & MacKerron, George, 2013. "Are you happy while you work?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 48924, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:48924

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Open access version.
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Andrew J. Oswald & Eugenio Proto & Daniel Sgroi, 2015. "Happiness and Productivity," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(4), pages 789-822.
    2. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2008. "Hypertension and happiness across nations," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 218-233, March.
    3. Andrew E. Clark, 2003. "Unemployment as a Social Norm: Psychological Evidence from Panel Data," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 289-322, April.
    4. Freeman, Richard B, 1978. "Job Satisfaction as an Economic Variable," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 135-141, May.
    5. Andrew E. Clark & Richard Layard & Claudia Senik, 2012. "The causes of happiness and misery," PSE-Ecole d'économie de Paris (Postprint) halshs-00846583, HAL.
    6. Nicholas Bloom & James Liang & John Roberts & Zhichun Jenny Ying, 2015. "Does Working from Home Work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 130(1), pages 165-218.
    7. Andrew E. Clark & Ed Diener & Yannis Georgellis & Richard E. Lucas, 2008. "Lags And Leads in Life Satisfaction: a Test of the Baseline Hypothesis," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(529), pages 222-243, June.
    8. Dolan, Paul & Layard, Richard & Metcalfe, Robert, 2011. "Measuring subjective well-being for public policy," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 35420, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    9. Helliwell, John & Layard, Richard & Sachs, Jeffrey, 2012. "World happiness report," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 47487, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    10. Dr Alex Bryson, 2012. "Well-being, Health and Work," National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) Discussion Papers 387, National Institute of Economic and Social Research.
    11. Blanchflower, David G; Oswald, Andrew, 2011. "International Happiness," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 39, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    12. repec:nsr:niesrd:387 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Paul Dolan & Richard Layard & Robert Metcalfe, 2011. "Measuring Subjective Wellbeing for Public Policy: Recommendations on Measures," CEP Special Papers 23, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Happiness, work & productivity
      by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2013-02-20 19:58:10
    2. Happiness vs options
      by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2013-02-27 19:18:59
    3. On happiness inequality
      by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2014-02-26 19:41:44
    4. Bondage
      by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2014-11-14 19:37:10
    5. Advice for youth
      by ? in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2014-11-25 20:39:00
    6. Competition & working conditions
      by ? in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2015-03-29 17:25:00
    7. Some election non-issues
      by ? in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2015-04-02 19:00:00
    8. Marx's relevance today
      by ? in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2015-10-25 18:02:00
    9. How much should millennials save?
      by ? in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2016-02-17 18:52:00


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Odermatt, Reto & Powdthavee, Nattavudh & Stutzer, Alois, 2017. "Overoptimistic Entrepreneurs: Predicting Wellbeing Consequences of Self-Employment," IZA Discussion Papers 11098, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Bencsik, Panka, 2018. "The non-financial costs of violent public disturbances: Emotional responses to the 2011 riots in England," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 73-82.
    3. Daniel Wheatley & Craig Bickerton, 2017. "Subjective well-being and engagement in arts, culture and sport," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 41(1), pages 23-45, February.
    4. Wijngaards, Indy & Hendriks, Martijn & Burger, Martijn J., 2019. "Steering towards happiness: An experience sampling study on the determinants of happiness of truck drivers," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 131-148.
    5. Andrew M. Bryce, 2019. "Weekend working in 21st century Britain:Does it matter for well-being?," Working Papers 2019007, The University of Sheffield, Department of Economics.
    6. Adrian Chadi & Clemens Hetschko, 2017. "Income or Leisure? On the Hidden Benefits of (Un-)Employment," CESifo Working Paper Series 6567, CESifo.
    7. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve & George Ward, 2017. "Happiness at work," CentrePiece - The Magazine for Economic Performance 517, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    8. Tobias Wolf & Maria Metzing & Richard E. Lucas, 2019. "Experienced Well-Being and Labor Market Status: The Role of Pleasure and Meaning," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 1043, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    9. Chris Hand, 2018. "Do the arts make you happy? A quantile regression approach," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 42(2), pages 271-286, May.
    10. Bryson, Alex & MacKerron, George, 2018. "How Does Terrorism Affect Individuals' Wellbeing?," IZA Discussion Papers 11273, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    11. Alex Bryson & George MacKerron, 2017. "How Does Terrorism Affect Individuals’ Wellbeing?," DoQSS Working Papers 17-14, Department of Quantitative Social Science - UCL Institute of Education, University College London.
    12. Angrave, David & Charlwood, Andy & Wooden, Mark, 2014. "Working time and cigarette smoking: Evidence from Australia and the United Kingdom," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 72-79.
    13. Sevinç, Orhun, 2017. "Skill-biased technical change and Labor market polarization:the role of skill heterogeneity within occupations," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 86147, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    14. Bäker, Agnes & Goodall, Amanda H., 2020. "Feline followers and “umbrella carriers”: Department Chairs’ influence on faculty job satisfaction and quit intentions," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 49(4).
    15. Jung, SeEun & Vranceanu, Radu, 2019. "Competitive compensation and subjective well-being: The effect of culture and gender," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 90-108.
    16. Panka Bencsik, 2018. "Stress on the Sidewalk: Mental health costs of close proximity crime," 2018 Papers pbe976, Job Market Papers.
    17. Sophia Schmitz, 2020. "The Impact of Publicly Funded Childcare on Parental Well-Being: Evidence from Cut-Off Rules," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 36(2), pages 171-196, April.
    18. Orhun Sevinc, 2017. "Skill-Biased Technical Change and Labor Market Polarization: The Role of Skill Heterogeneity Within Occupations," Discussion Papers 1728, Centre for Macroeconomics (CFM).

    More about this item


    happiness; relaxation; work; wellbeing;

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General
    • J28 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Safety; Job Satisfaction; Related Public Policy


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:48924. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (LSERO Manager). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.