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Psychology urged as new gauge of wellness

Posted - Sep. 27, 2004 at 1:40 p.m.



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PHILDALPHIA, Pa., Sep 27, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- U.S. psychologists are calling for their discipline, rather than economics, to be embraced as the most accurate gauge of a nation's well-being.

Ed Diener, University of Illinois, and Martin E.P. Seligman, University of Pennsylvania, wrote in the latest issue of the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest that money does not necessarily increase well-being.

"While wealth has trebled over the past 50 years, well-being has been flat, mental illness has increased at an even more rapid rate, and data, not just nostalgic reminiscences, indicate that the social fabric is more frayed than it was in leaner times," the authors said.

They note that in a 1985 survey, respondents from the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans and the Maasai of East Africa were almost equally satisfied and ranked relatively high in well-being. The Maasai are a traditional herding people who have no electricity or running water and live in huts made of dung.

The researchers said it follows that economic development and personal income must not account for the happiness to which they so often are linked.

"Scientists are now in the position to assess well-being directly, and therefore should establish a system ... to supplement the economic measures," they added.

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.

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