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Well-being: In search of a good life?

Beverley A. Searle
Copyright Date: 2008
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    We are often told that 'money can't buy happiness'. But if money is not the answer then what is? This book considers this question by examining empirical data stretching back almost 10 years. Whereas previous concerns of individual well-being have been drawn towards the negative outcomes of life experiences, this book provides a new approach by directly addressing the circumstances under which high subjective well-being is experienced, often with surprising results. Drawing on nine years of panel data, the book examines demographic, social, spatial, health, domain satisfaction and socio-economic circumstances in a rich and complex longitudinal study, providing previously unknown information on factors associated with improved and sustained high well-being. It shows that subjective assessments of our circumstances are more important to well-being than our objective conditions and suggests that high well-being may be the key to improvements in people's subjective experience of a wide range of adverse (and other) life events. It also highlights that high levels of well-being are more likely to be associated with our social relationships and health status than with income or personal status, and that affluence is no guarantee to high subjective well-being and indeed may have negative consequences. The 21st century is seeing the emergence of a positive science, with a new focus on subjective well-being. This research adds new knowledge to the issues and debates which support the move towards a better understanding of the factors that promote subjective well-being. Such findings will be important to the international academic field as well as the national political arena where improving well-being has become a part of the government's agenda.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-281-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of figures and tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    A statement that no one without money really believes, but one that is nonetheless increasingly becoming evidence based. That is what this book is about.

    So does money matter? The simple answer is, not as much as we might expect it to. Increases in income may improve mood for a short while but over the longer term the initial ‘high’ mellows out as the new-found wealth just becomes a part of everyday living and desires and expectations lead to feelings of inadequacy and dissatisfaction. So if money is not the answer, then what is? This book will answer this question...

  6. TWO The enigma of well-being?
    (pp. 11-38)

    Money matters, but for those fortunate enough to live in the modern developed ‘western’ world, it is no guarantee of well-being. over the past 50 years happiness has reportedly not increased in line with GDP (Layard, 2003) and several theories have been developed that seek to explain this poor relationship. The growing despondency with the consuming capitalist philosophy of the 1980s fuelled a change in British and other attitudes into the 1990s and new lifestyles and measures of success were – and still are – being sought.

    The idea of measuring successful – positive – outcomes developed from the psychological perspective of self-actualisation (Maslow,...

  7. THREE Achieving high subjective well-being
    (pp. 39-76)

    There is currently a revitalised interest in the study of happiness and positive mood; arguably this is a period when the ‘concept of Gross National Happiness is coming of age’ (Stehlik, 1999, p 52). Academics, professionals and politicians are all working towards a new generation of measurements of social progress that value quality of life and subjective well-being and that recognise that these are not simply a measure of affluence. However, the study of well-being is in its infancy (Donovan et al, 2002) and there is still an element of mystery surrounding which factors are associated with life satisfaction and...

  8. FOUR Advancing the study of subjective well-being
    (pp. 77-98)

    Times change. Life in Britain in the 1980s is not the same as that experienced in the 1990s, nor indeed in the new millennium. Politics shift, economies unwind, cultures reform. Well-being today may not be what it was half a century ago – the mix of factors affecting well-being is likely to vary over time. This chapter is about the temporal dynamics of well-being.

    one of the problems of previous well-being research (identified in Chapter 2) has been the lack of longitudinal analysis. Previous research has been limited by its treatment of subjective well-being as a static phenomenon (Kahn and Juster,...

  9. FIVE Well-being: the state of the art
    (pp. 99-114)

    Concerns about what constitutes a ‘happy’ or ‘fulfilling’ life are not new – indeed this has been a topic of intellectual debate since the times of the early Greek philosophers. This is perhaps not surprising, given that underlying many aspects of everyday practice and experience is the motivation to improve the quality of life for ourselves and those around us. But although individually there may be many different concepts of what constitutes ‘well-being’, the attention being given to such an ideal in academia and politics signals a growing awareness of the importance of a collective understanding of what ‘well-being’ is and...

  10. SIX Well-being: A welfare ideal?
    (pp. 115-130)

    This book started out by suggesting that money and material goods are not the route to happiness. The subsequent chapters have shown that well-being is not a function of economic progress or affluence, but that what matters is the social context of material existence. This is why well-being is more closely associated with income inequality than income levels themselves; it ‘is not the direct effects of absolute material living standards so much as the effect of social relativities’ (Wilkinson, 1996, p 3) that matters.

    Well-being, then, does not emerge from the satisfaction of higher income or consumption opportunities, but is...

  11. Appendix: Regression tables
    (pp. 132-172)
  12. References
    (pp. 173-192)
  13. Index
    (pp. 193-198)