Posted by: dowsmallgroups | 17/05/2010

What makes you happy?

The Baggs Memorial Lecture has been an annual event at the University of Birmingham since 1976. Thomas Baggs was an alumnus who went on to become a teacher, journalist and a war correspondent for the Daily Mail before pursuing a successful career in advertising and publicity for the USA automobile industry. When he died in 1973, he bequeathed a substantial sum to the University to provide for an annual public lecture on the theme of ‘Happiness – what it is and how it may be achieved by individuals as well as nations.’

Over the years, many distinguished speakers have tackled the topic from their own personal viewpoint, including Desmond Morris, Andrew Motion (whose poems tend to slight gloominess) Yehudi Menuhin, Sue Lawley, Alan Bennett, Maureen Lipman (who said that she kept wanting to write on unhappiness), Trevor McDonald and Robert Winston.

Author, economist and government advisor, Lord Layard, at the Baggs lecture in 2005 and in his book, Happiness: lessons from a new science, spoke and wrote that there is a paradox at the heart of our lives. Most people want more income. Yet as societies become richer, they do not become happier. This is not just anecdotally true, it is the story told by countless pieces of scientific research. We now have sophisticated ways of measuring how happy people are, and all the evidence shows that on average, people have grown no happier in the last fifty years, even as average incomes have more than doubled. In fact, the First World has more depression, more alcoholism and more crime than fifty years ago. This paradox is true of Britain, the United States, continental Europe and Japan. What is going on? What is missing?

More on this to come next month!

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