Letter from Simon Kelner


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The Independent Online

"Happiness, happiness, the greatest gift that I possess." These were the immortal words of the bard of Knotty Ash, Ken Dodd.

"I thank the Lord that I've been blessed, with more than my share of happiness." There are some who may have believed that the main cause of Doddy's happiness was having £336,000 in cash under his mattress - he was pursued by the Inland Revenue in the late 1980s, but, amazingly, a Liverpool jury found him innocent. Doddy explained that it was kept there as a safeguard in case of civil war - but we will let that pass. Anyway, the point is that happiness is back on the agenda, put there by a relentlessly optimistic David Cameron (and, yes, I don't know what he's got to be optimistic about, either). He wants there to be a national measure of psychological well-being, and I think he should be encouraged, given how interesting the initial findings are. For instance, did you know what makes students happy? No, it's not a ready supply of sex and drugs, a lifetime subscription to Heat magazine and a neverending happy hour in the union bar. What students value, according to the results from 34,000 responses, is - and I kid you not - world peace, alternative fuels and mortgages. And critics of the study have dismissed the results as predictable! Neither do I recognise some of the aspects of life that are said to make adults happy, like exercise classes, access to a good play group or being a good mum. (I realise I am now being very subjective.) But where, for example, is finding a parking space in the West End of London? Or going to Ikea (or any such store) and being told that, yes, they do have exactly the thing you wanted? Or discovering that you are able to make a piece of technology work (this can include anything from a digital camera to a mobile phone)? The whole point of happiness, I suppose, is that it is, by its very nature, a matter of personal taste. That is not, however, a reason to dismiss the Government's well intentioned efforts to measure the national happiness quotient. And also to encourage people to look beyond material goods for pleasure. From the responses posted so far, it seems to me that teenagers are the group who have best grasped this concept. They were clear what makes them happy: chocolate, family, football, friends, money, pets, sun, The Only Way is Essex, alcohol and bed. To some of us, that simply sounds like the recipe for a perfect day! Without The Only Way is Essex, obviously.

Simon Kelner is Editor-in-Chief of The Independent, The Independent on Sunday and i