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Are You Happy While You Work?

  • Alex Bryson


    (NIESR and CEP)

  • George MacKerron


    (Department of Economics, University of Sussex)

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.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Sussex in its series Working Paper Series with number 5713.

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Date of creation: Feb 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:sus:susewp:5713
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  1. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2007. "Hypertension and Happiness across Nations," IZA Discussion Papers 2633, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Oswald, Andrew J. & Proto, Eugenio & Sgroi, Daniel, 2009. "Happiness and Productivity," IZA Discussion Papers 4645, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Andrew Clark & Ed Diener & Yannis Georgellis & Richard E. Lucas, 2003. "Lags and Leads in Life Satisfaction: A Test of the Baseline Hypothesis," DELTA Working Papers 2003-14, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  4. 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.
  5. Nicholas Bloom & James Liang & John Roberts & Zhichun Jenny Ying, 2013. "Does Working from Home Work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment," CEP Discussion Papers dp1194, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  6. Blanchflower, David G; Oswald, Andrew, 2011. "International Happiness," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 39, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  7. Freeman, Richard B, 1978. "Job Satisfaction as an Economic Variable," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 135-41, May.
  8. 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.
  9. Dr Alex Bryson, 2012. "Well-being, Health and Work," NIESR Discussion Papers 387, National Institute of Economic and Social Research.
  10. repec:nsr:niesrd:387 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. Paul Dolan & Richard Layard & Robert Metcalfe, 2011. "Measuring subjective well-being for public policy," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 35420, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
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