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Causes and effects of wellbeing

For policy-makers to take subjective wellbeing seriously, we have to be able to show, in a quantitative way, what causes wellbeing and how wellbeing affects other things that policy-makers care about, like education and physical and mental health. Researchers at the CEP continue to work on assessing how adult life-satisfaction is predicted by childhood experiences, and carry out extensive empirical work investigating different causes of happiness.

Using the British Cohort Study (1970), Richard Layard and co-authors find that the most powerful childhood predictor of adult life-satisfaction is the child's emotional health. Next comes the child's conduct. The least powerful predictor is the child's intellectual development. This has obvious implications for educational policy. Among adult circumstances, family income accounts for only 0.5% of the variance of life-satisfaction. Mental and physical health are much more important.

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