Researchers at the University of Warwick have found a direct connection between a nation's overall happiness and its citizens' blood pressure problems. Sweden, Denmark and the UK come top of this blood pressure based happiness league while Germany, Portugal and Finland come bottom.
The research by economists Professor Andrew Oswald of the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick and Professor David Blanchflower of Dartmouth College USA is about to be published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in Massachusetts.
Doctors have known for a long time that blood pressure is one measure of an individual's health. This research is the first to demonstrate that there a connection between nations' happiness and blood-pressure levels. The researchers believe that it could offer a way for policy makers to move away from simply focusing on maximizing the amount of money produced by a country – its Gross Domestic Product.
University of Warwick Economist Professor Andrew Oswald said: "We found that a measure of a nation's rate of hypertension is a good predictor of its overall happiness. That surprised us.
"Although it sounds strange to suggest it in 2007, perhaps blood-pressure readings will one day replace or augment GDP as a measure of the success of a country. Maybe economists and doctors are going to have to work together in the design of future economic policies."
The researchers drew a random sample of 15,000 people from across the European countries. These people were interviewed about all aspects of their lives, including their levels of satisfaction with life, their mental health, and whether they had had problems of hypertension (high blood pressure). Reported hypertension is known to be a good indicator of actual blood-pressure problems.
Countries such as Ireland, Denmark and the Netherlands turn out to top the European league table of happiness, with nations like Germany and Portugal at the bottom. What the study's authors then go on to show is that exactly the equivalent pattern is found in reported hypertension in these populations.
Happy countries have fewer blood-pressure problems. Mental health in each country, they show, is also inversely correlated with its rate of hypertension. The study ranks countries in this order Sweden Denmark UK Netherlands Ireland France Luxembourg Spain Greece Italy Belgium Austria Finland Germany Portugal.