Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Body Politic

Clap along if you feel like happiness is linked to money

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 12 November 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g6733
  1. Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist, London
  1. nigel.hawkes1{at}

Surveying people’s wellbeing is unnecessary—GDP seems to be a good marker for happiness

This week, duty dictates that I should write about NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens’s plan for the next five years of the NHS.1 2 Its publication is a big event, raising lots of animated chatter among the policy makers and setting the scene for next year’s general election. Yet somehow it doesn’t excite: it’s altogether too sensible. So let’s cast duty aside and talk about happiness instead.

For many years it’s been an article of faith that gross national (or domestic) product measures everything except what makes life worthwhile, to borrow a phrase from Robert Kennedy. It does not include “the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play,” he said in a speech in 1968. “It does not include the beauty of our poetry, the strength of our marriages, or the integrity of our public officials,” and so on. Disregarding the chutzpah of that claim about marriage from a Kennedy, his rhetoric was certainly stirring.

The idea of a better measure of national wellbeing hibernated until reinvented by the French. Secure in the belief that the French model for living was superior to that of the Anglo …

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