WHAT IS HAPPINESS? THAT S the question that the town of Bolton was asked, in a repeat of a famous 1938 experiment.

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1 15-21 May 2015 WHAT IS HAPPINESS? THAT S the question that the town of Bolton was asked, in a repeat of a famous 1938 experiment. Psychologists Sandie McHugh and Jerome Carson carried out a new version of the Mass Observation survey, by placing an advert in the Bolton News. The results showed that people now rate good humour and financial security as their top two, with leisure in third. In 1938 the top three were financial security, knowledge and religion. In 2015, religion slipped down to tenth and last. People who responded to the 1938 advert weren t told what the survey was for. To tempt them to reply, there was a special extra prize of 1 for the best questionnaire! In one of the extra questions added for this year s survey, 77% of people said that money wasn t directly related to how happy they were. One person said: You don t need tons of material things to be happy. Interestingly, in 1938, most people (75%) said that they were happier in Bolton rather than away from it. In this new survey, more people (61%) were happier when they weren t in Bolton. McHugh says this could be because people travel further to work nowadays, so many workers might not actually live in Bolton. She says it s also possible that with the modern world s larger number of leisure activities, people might do more things in the countryside or elsewhere in the northwest at weekends. The research was presented at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society. News Story Original Version (Primary) schoolsonline.britishcouncil.org

2 15-21 May 2015 WHAT IS HAPPINESS? People in the town of Bolton have repeated a famous survey to find out what makes people happy. In 1938, an advert was placed in the Bolton News asking people to take part in a survey. People who replied helped to make a Happiness Index by ranking different options. 77 years later, a new version of that experiment has been carried out by psychologists, Sandie McHugh and Jerome Carson. The results show that people now consider good humour, financial security and leisure to be the three things which make them happiest. In 1938, the top three were financial security, education and religion. In 2015, religion slipped down to tenth and last. In one of the extra questions from this year s survey, 77% of people said that money wasn t directly related to how happy they were. One person said: You don t need tons of material things to be happy. Interestingly, in 1938, most people (75%) said that they were happier in Bolton rather than away from it. In this new survey, more people (61%) were happier when they weren t in Bolton. McHugh says this could be because people travel further to work nowadays, so many workers might not actually live in Bolton. She says it s also possible that there are more activities for people to do in the countryside these days, or elsewhere in the northwest. The research was presented at a meeting of the British Psychological Society. News Story Simplified Version

3 ADDITIONAL FACTS AND FIGURES From the moment of birth, every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering. I don t know whether the universe, with its countless galaxies, stars and planets, has a deeper meaning or not, but at the very least, it is clear that we humans who live on this earth face the task of making a happy life for ourselves. Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness. The Dalai Lama, Buddhist and spiritual leader of Tibet WHAT is happiness, and what does it mean to be happy? These are questions that have been asked for thousands of years. There are no easy answers, and as happiness is a state of mind it is very difficult to measure. We think we know when we re happy and when we re sad, but sometimes it is difficult to realise exactly how happy we are. Sometimes we realise much later that we experienced a truly happy moment. But happiness is more than just a moment of joy it s a long-lasting feeling that means you are content with your life. More about the Bolton experiment In 1938, 226 people from Bolton took part in an experiment to compile a happiness index. The survey was part of a project to study the everyday lives of ordinary people, called Mass Observation. 77 years later, the psychological survey has been repeated and the results Worktown Observation Centre, Bolton compared. In both surveys, people had to rank ten options to answer which of them were most important to true happiness (1 being the most important; 10 being the least). The options were: Equality (in wealth) Politics (having a say in political decisions) Beauty (attractive living and working environments) Religion Leadership (direction from national and regional leaders) Humour Leisure Knowledge (education) Financial security Action (getting on and solving your problems) Across the years, people have judged basic financial security to be one of the most important factors affecting their happiness. But now, humour and leisure replace education and religion in people s top three choices. These differences show how much society has changed. In 1938, war was looming; the Second World War began the year after. People were only educated to 14, there was much higher unemployment and there was no welfare state (financial help for poor people). Interestingly, although times are different, neither group saw wealth as important to happiness. Even in 1938, people said they needed: Enough money to meet everyday needs and a little for pleasure, and A little bit put by for a rainy day Money can t buy happiness. Measuring happiness The Bolton experiment is one way of finding out what makes us happy, but there are also scientific efforts to measure how happy we are. The British Government now measures the nation s happiness as part of what it calls well-being. In the past, governments have been judged on how wealthy we are individually and as a country. Now, many people think that other factors, such as happiness, need to be considered too. The World Happiness Index, which is backed by the United Nations, has been in operation for three years. The latest version examined 158 countries and studied a variety of information including: a country s finances, life expectancy and how much freedom people have to express themselves. The 2015 survey ranked Switzerland as the world s happiest country, followed by Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Canada. The United Kingdom ranked 21st, while the least happy country according to the report is Tajikistan in central Asia. The What Makes Me Happy project Find out what makes children happy around the world. The British Council and The Ragdoll Foundation have teamed up to produce a series of short, fun films on children s happiness. They are full of diverse stories showing that, even where lives are difficult, children can still find happiness.

4 KEY TOPIC VOCABULARY CAN you match the correct definition to the key words in this news story? psychology a research organisation founded in 1937 which aimed to study the everyday lives of ordinary people in Britain psychologist the state of being comfortable, healthy and happy survey an investigation into the opinions of a group of people by asking questions Mass Observation being treated equally with other people, especially in relation to rights or opportunities leisure free time, used for enjoyment materialistic a person who is studies emotions and behaviour well-being believing that having money and possessions is the most important thing in life equality the scientific study of the human mind

5 KNOW THE FACTS FIND the answers to these questions to make sure you know the facts behind the news story: 1) Explain what people had to do in the Bolton happiness experiment. 2) What were the top three factors which people said made them happy in 2015? 3) How do the recent results compare to the choices people made in 1938? 4) What factors may have affected people s answers in 1938? 5) According to the World Happiness Index, which country is the happiest, and which is the least happy?

6 POINTS OF VIEW WHAT DO YOU THINK? Discuss these questions with other people to develop your ideas. 1) Do you agree with the top three happiness factors chosen by people in Bolton? If not, which of the survey s options would you say are most important to happiness? 3) Do you think different things make children happy in comparison to adults? 2) Why do you think financial security (knowing you have enough money to live on) is in the top three, even though people in both groups said that being rich wasn t important? 4) Can a personal emotion like happiness be measured? How do you think scientists attempt to measure the happiness of a nation? 5) Why are the options and the questions people are given so important in a survey like the one from Bolton? SHARE your thoughts on these questions with your partner school.

7 VOTE, COMMENT, ACT CAN you explore this news story even further? 1) WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY? Write your own personal list of five things which make you happy. They could be general ideas, like good humour, hobbies and music. You might choose things you like to do. Or, they could be very specific things, such as a particular song, a view, or a book! Suggest that pupils from your partner school do the same thing. Share your list with someone of the same age from the school. Do the things on their list surprise you? Do you think they would make you happy too? Why do you think there are differences between what you have each chosen? 2) CONTRIBUTE TO THE WORLD S HAPPINESS When we think of the people we know and love it s very easy to think of something which will make them happy, but we don t always stop and do those things. Life s too busy, and no one ever has enough time Make a class pledge. In one week, can every person in the class do one thing, just one tiny act, to make someone else in the world a little bit happier? How did your act of kindness affect your own mood? 3) SOMETHING WE RE HAPPY TO CATCH There is some scientific evidence now that happiness is contagious. Can you take a photo of every person in your class, smiling. Print out each photo on A4 paper and make a giant photo mural of every person in your class being happy! Does it help make a happy working environment for you all to enjoy? Share your ideas with your partner school.

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