09 Apr 2011 | Financial Times
Do you agree that your life has a sense of purpose? Would
you say that, overall, you have a lot to be proud of? Do you wish
you lived somewhere else? Coming out of the blue, these are tricky
questions to answer. Yet they aren't aimed at adults. They come
from a questionnaire for children aged 11 to 16.
The charity think-tank New Philanthropy Capital has devised
the questions as part of its "well-being measure", a 15-minute
survey that asks about relationships with family, school and
community, as well as self-esteem and life satisfaction. The tool,
being tested now, is designed to be used by charities, schools and
youth groups to work out how happy (or not) children are. John
Copps, who runs the project at NPC, believes the survey is
capturing something that has been elusive: it is, he says, "putting
a number on a feeling".
The desire to match numbers to feelings is popular at the
moment. In November last year, prime minister David Cameron put
happiness at the centre of government policy when he announced that
the Office for National Statistics would produce a national
"well-being index" alongside its usual tables measuring income,
health, births and deaths. And from this month, as part of the
data-gathering, about 200,000 people a year will be asked new
questions about their life satisfaction as part of the Integrated
Though Cameron has acknowledged that many will think the idea of
happiness measuring "airy-fairy and impractical", it looks as if it
is here to stay: official enthusiasm for monitoring and improving
our collective happiness - or lack of it - has never been higher.
This week the UK's best-known happiness expert, Richard Layard, a
professor of economics at the LSE, co-launches Action for
Happiness, "a new mass movement to create a happier society".
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Do things for others, Be a Happiness Activist, Education