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CEP discussion paper

The key determinants of happiness and misery


Understanding the key determinants of people’s life satisfaction will suggest policies for how best to reduce misery and promote wellbeing. This paper provides evidence from survey data on USA, Australia, Britain and Indonesia, which indicate that the things that matter most are people’s social relationships and their mental and physical health. These adult factors affecting happiness are influenced in turn by the pattern of child development: the best predictor of an adult’s life satisfaction is their emotional health as a child. These results call for a new focus for public policy – not “wealth-creation” but “wellbeing-creation”.


Andrew E. Clark, Sarah Flèche, Richard Layard, Nattavudh Powdthavee and George Ward

7 June 2017     Paper Number CEPDP1485

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This CEP discussion paper is published under the centre's Community Wellbeing programme.

This publication comes under the following theme: Wellbeing Policy