The U-shape of happiness in Scotland


Bell DNF & Blanchflower DG (2021) The U-shape of happiness in Scotland. Scottish Journal of Political Economy, 68 (4), pp. 407-433.

We examine well-being in Scotland using micro data from the Scottish Health Survey and the UK Annual Population Surveys. We find evidence of a midlife nadir or zenith in Scotland in well-being at around age 50 using a variety of measures of both happiness and unhappiness. We confirm that higher consumption of fruit and vegetables is associated with higher levels of happiness in Scotland. We compare this with evidence for England from the Health Survey of England. The decline in well-being between youth and midlife is comparable in size to the loss of a spouse or of a job and around half of the fall in well-being in the COVID-19 lockdown. We also find a midlife peak in suicides in Scotland. Despite higher mortality and suicide rates in Scotland than in England, paradoxically we find that the Scots are happier than the English. Northern Ireland is the happiest of the four home countries. We also find evidence of U-shapes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the mid to late forties.

happiness; U-shape; well-being

Scottish Journal of Political Economy: Volume 68, Issue 4

Publication date30/09/2021
Publication date online14/06/2021
Date accepted by journal15/12/2020