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Happiness and health: lessons—and questions—for public policy


Graham, Carol (2008). Happiness and health: lessons—and questions—for public policy. Health Affairs, 27(1), 72.


This paper reviews the happiness-health relationship from an economics perspective, highlighting the role of adaptation. People’s expectations for health standards influence their reported health and associated happiness, a finding that roughly mirrors the Easterlin paradox in income and happiness. Research on unhappiness and obesity shows that norms and stigma vary a great deal across countries and cohorts, mediating the related well-being costs. Better understanding this variance and its effects on incentives for addressing the condition is important to policy design. More generally, the paper discusses how happiness surveys can—and cannot—inform public health policy.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Health Affairs


Graham, Carol