herald

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Irish keep on smiling through cuts and tax

IRISH people are officially some of the happiest in the world, despite the harsh realities of the prolonged recession.

The average person's spending power has plummeted thanks to the Budget and we're facing a long spell of cold winter weather ahead.

But new research from the Science Gallery has found that Irish men and women don't let these woes keep us down.

The mood of people across the country now averages at 6.8 on a 0 to 10 point scale -- which ranks favourably on a global level.

However, the first ever National Happiness Experiment has found that happiness depends on feeling like we have been treated fairly.

People tend to be happy if they see that there is a sense of justice, that wrongdoers are held accountable and that cuts are spread evenly.

Over the course of six weeks, 3,309 participants aged from two to over 80 took part in the test via SMS in collaboration with Vodafone.

Perhaps surprisingly, the changing weather during the six-week experiment did not significantly affect participants' happiness levels.

Researchers Malcolm MacLachlan and Karen Hand launched the event in May this year during the Science Gallery's 'Lab in the Gallery' exhibition, HAPPY?.

In particular Irish people are most happy when asked 'How happy were you yesterday?'.

"The average of 6.8 compares very favourably on a global level and shows that we are robust in our inner happiness despite our moaning and groaning," Karen told the Herald.

"We are always in the top 10 in any surveys on happiness but the one we have done best in -- absolute top -- is how happy were you yesterday. We are actually first in the world in that particular one."

The book Happy Nation?, which is on sale now and half of the proceeds will go towards supporting the work of St Vincent de Paul, gives tips on how to maintain happiness levels.

Karen said that one of the secrets to happiness is doing things for others and actually focusing on your own level of happiness.

"Individually it is actually about paying attention to your own happiness," she explained.

Boost

"People wrote to us at the end thanking us for allowing them to take part.

"But if you actually reflect on how happy you are -- that itself has been shown to boost levels of happiness.

"Also if people do things for others, especially if they have a bumper day of saying I'm going to do five things for other people," Karen added.

A strong link was noted between participants' health and happiness, with those who considered themselves to be quite healthy scoring significantly higher in terms of happiness and life satisfaction.

And it doesn't matter what county we live in -- where we live has no significant effect on our sense of happiness.

clairemurphy@herald.ie

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