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Happiness: Lessons from a New Science

3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  617 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews
There is a paradox at the heart of our lives. We all want more money, but as societies become richer, they do not become happier. This is not speculation: It's 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 ...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published June 1st 2006 by Penguin Books (first published 2005)
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Apr 04, 2007 Nicole rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
First half: somewhat faulty science whose flaws were mildly offensive to my sensibilities. Example: a study of nuns showed that 21% of those most cheerful died in the following nine years, compared to 55% of least cheerful nuns. Layard claims this "shows how happiness can increase a person's life." How naively speculative to assume causality between these two variables!! Perhaps the nuns were happy for the very reason that they were healthy. Or maybe an outside variable (having family members vi ...more
Jan 06, 2013 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was pretty interesting. Layard is an economist and he talks about how it would seem better for nations to use a measure of happiness as a marker of progress rather than gross national product. He does a good job of evaluating the science of happiness (enough to satisfy my rather critical eye) and concludes that we can now measure happiness well enough in a meaningful way. The book ranges from the science of happiness, to the economics of producing happiness, and to the spiritual aspect ...more
Jun 06, 2008 Gawaind rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who need evidence that they're happy although they are not rich
A book on the economics of happiness, that is mistakenly placed under psychology. Plainly - economists tend to be clumsy when counting happiness, and Layard gives us some tools to count correctly. In sum, love brings happiness. Money does, but not much past a middle class amount. We tend to compare ourselves to our neighbors.

Lots of neat little psychological truths about how we make economic decisions. For people who want to learn about economics but don't want the math.
Oct 15, 2008 Holly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Holly by: Dr. Sandra Lubarsky
Shelves: sus-601
so far I really like this! Yes, part of my grad program - this week's topic: Taking Happiness Seriously.

I should send this book to my ex-husband. he thinks fun and happiness are utterly unimportant.

* * * * * *

Interesting - don't agree with everything, but written by an economist - so - what can I expect? However, he's moving in a good direction I think.
Happiness- Lessons From A New Science by Richard Layard

Another version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

- and

This is a Fantastic book.

It touches so many aspects of happiness that I am in awe.
From Bhutan to the Academy Awards Winners.
From taxation to teaching morals in schools.

The different indicators that make the differences in well being levels between countries are revealed.
They are:

- Levels o
Alan Hanssen
Jan 22, 2017 Alan Hanssen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Second time reading this book, I still read it like it was the first time, haha.
Having an economist talking about happiness it is an interesting experience. Because of the ambition of the book, it would need to have three thousand pages to cover everything in details. Instead, you can see topics on the surface and pick other articles or books to gain a more specialized knowledge.
It is a great experience to see positive psychology out of its environment, to read about the economy and the sources
Sep 17, 2011 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
I really liked this book. I have read several books on happiness lately and thought this one really made some good points. As an economist, Layard argues that we should be paying more attention to what makes us happy and helping countries and communities work towards that instead of just economic development. After all, it's more than money that makes us happy. If we were to measure happiness instead of income by country we might be able to see better how we are measuring up to the principles es ...more
Nathalia J Edholm
Interesting book with some good points, however methodology was sometimes flawed, confusing correlation with causation. Also did not go deeper regarding underlying causes leading to unhappiness in society. Despite a risk of becoming political, I would've wanted a less mild analysis.
Ian Vollbracht
Dec 30, 2016 Ian Vollbracht rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An instant classic. There is a great deal of wisdom in these pages.
Jul 26, 2007 Lucy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2006
i think this is actually the one recommended in the review i read, but it was still pretty interesting. although, i did get kind of depressed at how being miserable changes your brain and weakens your immune system and makes you die sooner (apparently oscar winners live longer than mere nominees). the book is essentially an argument for making happiness the ultimate aim of society, and describes the kind of public policy that would be required. he mainly argues for more family-friendly work plac ...more
Jul 26, 2007 Beckie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2006
i think this is actually the one recommended in the review i read, but it was still pretty interesting. although, i did get kind of depressed at how being miserable changes your brain and weakens your immune system and makes you die sooner (apparently oscar winners live longer than mere nominees). the book is essentially an argument for making happiness the ultimate aim of society, and describes the kind of public policy that would be required. he mainly argues for more family-friendly work plac ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Reviewers agree that Layard, a leading British economist and well-known government advisor, raises fundamentally important questions that we all tend to ignore in our strivings to achieve on a daily basis. The author supplies ample data to show that capitalism's emphasis on individualism and competition has helped to diminish the feeling of a common good among people of different classes and societies. The critics disagree, however, on Layard's recommendation of state- and church-oriented interv

Apr 05, 2014 Vishvapani rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A persuasive presentation of Layard's belief that our aim as a society should be to increase happiness, as opposed to increasing income, GDP, health etch as ends in themselves. It's exceptionally clear and simple, while drawing on vast knowledge of the field.

My main reservation is that Layard's idea of happiness is rather simplistic, at least as presented here. He cites Mill's objection that there are different kinds and levels of happiness, but just dismisses it. This affects his views of othe
Sally McRogerson
A study of a combination of philosophy, economic, psychology and political analysis have gone into the writing of this book.

The outcomes seem to me to be a trifle obvious. I expected some new nuggets of information but these are the conclusions it draws. A spiritual life and altruism = happiness. Consumerism = discontent. Anti-depressants make people feel better. Taxes redistribute wealth. We hate to lose anything that we already have twice as much as we like to gain something of equal value.

Tomas Chaigneau
Aug 10, 2014 Tomas Chaigneau rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: work
I was surprised to see such a low rating for this book. I thought it was fantastic. Of course it glossed over many issues and remained relatively general, however it provides a very comprehensive argument for a move away from GDP. It also gives us a number of ideas and arguments that we may want to pick up and delve into more detail... Probably one of the best popular science books I've read. What's more, it doesn't get stuck in criticising the status quo, but remains positive and offers up solu ...more
Jan 06, 2008 Adam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one in particular.
This was really quite bad. It should've been an interesting book, and I've read articles about happiness and other emotions that have been interesting. Neurobiology can be interesting! It's possible! However, this is really about 3 surveys stretched out -- using huge font, huge margins, huge graphs, etc. -- to fill a meager book. I was really disappointed. After reading a couple books on the brain (A User's Guide to the Brain and The Ghost in the Machine) where every single bit of information in ...more
Ruth Baker
This is an I retesting book and pulls together the science and politics of happiness relatively well. It has an economics slant which is interesting but peculiarly emotionless given the subject matter. The philosophical side is based on Jeremy Benthams utilitarianism which I think is greatly flawed. His comparison with both Buddhism and Christianity is not well presented and doesn't exactly misinterpret those two religions but doesn't show the same understanding as the social, political and econ ...more
An unevenly written book by a senior economist examining what brings happiness. The strongest part is when the author examines survey data regarding reported happiness levels and their correlates, as well as when he makes quite reasonable public policy proposals regarding how to promote societal happiness (and therefore our won). The author's arguments are considerably weaker (and, at times, invalid) when examining writing from other fields, e.g., evolutionary psychology. Hence, my down-rating t ...more
Jun 10, 2008 Tracy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unfortunately - I didn't get a chance to finish the book completely - so I hope to continue reading it some other time. I really enjoyed some of the studies regarding happiness that he reports in the book, and I think I would have enjoyed it more if that had been the emphasis of the book. However, the book looks at happiness - or rather unhappiness - as a type of social problem, and thus how we should respond to it to try to fix it. I imagine that this is what is more interesting to most people ...more
Chad Andrews
Flawed book, but love the concept, and the book creates a loose framework that can and should be built upon. With Moore's Law, technology, coupled with globalization, will increasing (and exponentially) lead us to become beings ruled by the concept of pure optimization. As this occurs, happiness will suffer and we must have more stringent awareness and governance over principles of humanity that have heretofore been taken for granted. Kudos to Layard for laying some track.
Apr 06, 2008 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book detailing the latest research on what makes people happy and how much. The last 100 pages were a bit slower, detailing the author's thoughts on policy changes to maximize happiness in the US (tax addictions and vices, graduated tax brackets higher than now to incent the rich to work less and give more to the most poor, maximizing happiness)
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jul 26, 2009 Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: happiness
Layard poses a question: Why is it that income is up yet happiness has not risen? He examines many studies of happiness for answers to this question. He wants our economic system and political system to use happiness as a guideline for success and shows us ways we can manipulate these systems to better make people happy.
Jul 13, 2011 patience rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. If it were a man I'd marry him. Anyway, I like the reasonable approach to making life better for individuals and society through humane, achieveable steps, such as reasonable taxation, community building, and caring for the those who need help.

I may buy multiple copies and give them as gifts; I wish all politicians would read this book and apply its lessons
Jun 15, 2007 Ian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: economists
Every economist should read this book. Written by a pschyologist (if I remember correctly), it sets out from fundimental research and economics exactly why a focus on money as the measure of happiness and good is very very wrong and a huge mistake.
Well-written and easy to follow for a lay person but with all the fancy charts n such to make people who like such things happy too.
Darragh Mccashin
Aug 25, 2008 Darragh Mccashin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very accessible book for everyone.

The author is an economist who is basically spoon-feeding his audience the material, which consists of outlining the debates going on between economics, psychology, neuroscience, social policy and biology (to name but a few).

Nice introduction, shame its not as easy-to-understand when it comes to journal articles!
Kate McCarthy
The writing isn't that interesting or done particularly well, like an attempt to simplify academia for the common man, with mediocre results. First part overviews research in the economics of happiness in a pretty bland way with unsurprising outcomes, then the author reviews routes to happiness, advising for those he favors without much argument.
Mar 05, 2007 Tom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Why is it that in the U.S. we are richer as a nation than ever before and yet are not really any happier than 1950? Richard Layard investigates just what it is that makes us happy and how we might want to rethink how we measure success as a result. Great starting point for anyone interested in positive psychology.
Feb 20, 2011 Joost rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read the Dutch translation of this book, and I don't think it made it better. There was no flow in the reading.
I did like some of the ideas in the book, but most of it was already known to me, by reading other popular psychology books.
Archita Dutta
Aug 18, 2016 Archita Dutta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting and simple book but 275pages say a lot and give a different outlook after you finished reading. The seven statements on pages 250 and 251 are true way to judge the Happiness. I thoroughly enjoy reading the book.
Happiness is an elusive term, not easily defined. The author seeks to overly simplify what is rather complex and relative. On a rudimentary level, it points out some statistical observations about human nature, but little else.
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“No society can work unless its members feel responsibilities as well as rights.” 4 likes
“It is actually a rather sorry tale. In the late nineteenth century most English economists thought that economics was about happiness. They thought of a persons happiness as in principle measurable, like temperature, and they thought we could compare one persons happiness with anothers. They also assumed that extra income brought less and less extra happiness as a person got richer.” 2 likes
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