Psychological well-being, including happiness, is a significant factor in a person’s life and success. While a person should be protective of this, and their friends and family should attempt to improve and support their well-being, most people have few other support structures in place to assist. Unfortunately, individuals who are unwell may find that they are unable to improve their psychological well-being due to a lack of personal ability and connections.
Recent theories by economists, psychologists, and other researchers and academics focusing on happiness and well-being like Ed Diener and Richard Layard have suggested that due to the overall psychological well-being of citizens impact on a country’s success, that governments have a firm interest in supporting and helping improve their residents’ happiness.
Happier citizens are often physically healthier, more able to work successfully, more able to socially interact, and usually are less prone to crime or drug use. These are all factors that significantly reduce reliance on government services, saving money, and lead to a more pleasant and stable society.
Additionally, citizen’s happiness is considered by many to be a chief responsibility of government. From the United States founding, Thomas Jefferson frequently espoused the position that good government was obligated to provide for the happiness of the citizens that make it up.
Of course, a person has an even more critical role in their psychological well-being than the government, but the government is often in a position to assist and intervene when a person isn’t able to help themselves. A government can promote mental health education and access resources, put stability above uncontrolled growth, and support teaching critical related skills in schools. Not to mention putting into place policies that support and help those who are suffering.
Interestingly, Richard Layard has put forward a concept that taxes have, or should have, three purposes, public services, redistributing income and new thought, counteracting the tendency for people to work more than is good for their mental health. Overwork dramatically impacts overall health and in some places has become a health crisis. Directing public funds to reduce this is a reasonable goal.
Citizens who are psychologically unwell are not going to be able to successfully participate in local and national government, degrading the discourse and opinions offered in the marketplace of ideas. These citizens may also be more susceptible to unscrupulous news sources or entertainers who are willing to misuse their power to gain financial success at the expense of the society.
While many believe that income and wealth are primary factors in psychological well-being and happiness, many including Ed Diener think that there are factors that are equally or more important and that merely providing money isn’t necessarily a good solution. Education around happiness and how to achieve it and what expectations are reasonable can have a more significant impact than just increasing a person’s income.
Over time, if one’s government takes the time to increase happiness, everything improves. Bhutan’s Gross Happiness Index is an example of this. Events like The Happiness Festival can help governments and politicians learn about how happiness affects humans on a psychological level, and how improving this one thing can affect the entire world.