Dating begins at 40

These ideas have penetrated the policy arena, starting in Bhutan, where the concept of Gross National Happiness shapes the planning process.All new policies have to have a GNH assessment, similar to the environmental-impact assessment common in other countries.Whereas neuroticism tends to make for gloomy types, extroversion does the opposite.Those who like working in teams and who relish parties tend to be happier than those who shut their office doors in the daytime and hole up at home in the evenings.This personality trait may help explain some cross-cultural differences: a study comparing similar groups of British, Chinese and Japanese people found that the British were, on average, both more extrovert and happier than the Chinese and Japanese. All sorts of things in people's lives, such as relationships, education, income and health, shape the way they feel.Being married gives people a considerable uplift, but not as big as the gloom that springs from being unemployed.In America, being black used to be associated with lower levels of happiness—though the most recent figures suggest that being black or Hispanic is nowadays associated with greater happiness.People with children in the house are less happy than those without.

This is more than a tautological observation about people's mood when asked about their feelings by pollsters or economists.Women, by and large, are slightly happier than men.But they are also more susceptible to depression: a fifth to a quarter of women experience depression at some point in their lives, compared with around a tenth of men.The academics quoted lyrics written by Pete Townshend of The Who when he was 20: “Things they do look awful cold / Hope I die before I get old”.They pointed out that Mr Townshend, having passed his 60th birthday, was writing a blog that glowed with good humour.

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“We ran a conference about it, but nobody came.” Since then, interest in the U-bend has been growing.

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