Professor discovers the secret formula for eternal happiness

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THE ADAGE that money can't buy you happiness turns out not to be true - economists have shown that the richer we are, the happier we become.

But enjoyment of a wealthy lifestyle is tempered by other life events. According to a mathematical formula devised by a British economist and his US counterpart, a lasting marriage brings as much joy as having an extra pounds 60,000 a year, while losing a job "costs" pounds 40,000 in happiness.

The formula used by Professor Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick involves self-reported happiness levels, income, personal traits and demographic details. Although well-being has increased for some, on average life satisfaction in Britain has not changed since 1972. Then one-third of the population was very satisfied with life - the same as in 1998.

The study, Well Being in Britain and the US, looked at100,000 people in the two countries. Professor Oswald concludes that the happiest people are women, the highly educated, married couples and those whose parents did not divorce.

"Married people in Britain report rising well-being over this quarter of century," said Professor Oswald. "Unmarried people, by contrast, are no happier than in the 1970s." In the early 1970s, 72 per cent of the sample were married; the figure for last year was 55 per cent.

Women who cohabit are happier than those who live alone but nowhere near as happy as those who are married, the study found. British men continue to be less content thanwomen; 14 per cent are not very or not at all happy compared with 12 per cent of women.

The findings showed it would take a pay rise of about pounds 40,000 a year to "compensate" men for unemployment in happiness terms. "These enormous sums in a sense reflect the low happiness value of extra income," the study says. It was also found that happiness changes with age - in Britain, women are at their most miserable at 40, while men's low point is 43.