The idea that money brings happiness remains a very popular one, even though the evidence that this is a gross oversimplification of a very complex relationship has been around for a long time. Financial security can, of course, be a key factor in terms of well-being, as poverty and the anxieties it brings can have a very detrimental effect. Money can also buy power in some ways, and power can be important for well-being (just as powerlessness can be a considerable impediment to quality of life). But the idea that money can’t buy happiness is well established in classic and popular literature, cinema and drama. In fact, there is a strong argument that a focus on material wealth (whether successful in achieving it or not) can be highly detrimental, in so far as it distracts us from the wider and deeper pleasures of life. Perhaps we will only start to promote well-being in earnest when we move away from a simplistic focus on materialism.
Research by the American Psychological Association has found that over half the people who did not feel valued at work were planning on leaving within the next year (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/apa-survey-finds-feeling-valued-at-work-linked-to-well-being-and-performance-2012-03-08). Considering the cost of replacing staff that leave, this shows just how unwise (and expensive) it is for organisations not to show appreciation of their staff. Valuing staff can therefore be seen as an important part of workplace well-being.
It is good to see that the campaign for dignity in care for older people is gathering momentum. The tendency for older people in general to be treated dismissively and disrespectfully is worrying enough in itself, but when we are focusing specifically on older people who are dependent on care services, this tendency is particularly alarming. A major part of the problem is that so much ageism is largely invisible, in the sense that ageist comments or actions often produce no reaction or objection, while racist or sexist equivalents would be regarded as entirely unacceptable.
Perhaps the first step towards dignity in care needs to be the recognition that everyone should be treated with dignity, regardless of age – or any other social difference for that matter.
A recent survey attempted to establish how happy Britain is. It was called the ‘National Well-being Programme’ and it showed regional differences in how contented people perceive themselves to be. For me this is no surprise. While the traditional approach to well-being is an individualistic one (atomistic, to use the technical term, as opposed to holistic), we need to look beyond such a narrow approach. The emphasis on happiness, rather than the broader concept of well-being, is indicative of such an individualistic approach. If, instead, we were to understand well-being in more holistic, sociological terms, it would be quite apparent why there would be significant regional differences, no doubt rooted in the sociological differences we have known to exist across regions for quite some time now. I am therefore left wondering how meaningful it is to explore individual happiness without giving giving much fuller consideration to the sociological factors involved.
The Fawcett Society has pointed out that the coalition Government’s cuts in the UK have disproportionately affected women. So, as well as this policy being a significant backward step in terms of developing public services, we can now see it as a backward step in terms of gender equality. Visit the Fawcett Society website to find out about their campaigns for gender equality: www.fawcettsociety.org.uk.
Scotland has become the first country in the UK to record ethnicity on death certificates. So, what difference might that make? Well, in the longer term, it means that information will be available about health conditions, causes of death and so on in relation to different ethnic groups. This can be a very useful dataset when it comes to identifying inequalities in health, and it is to be hoped that this approach will be adopted more widely in due course.