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13 Nov 14 02:01

The pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal’, according to the UN. World life expectancy has increased by 20 years in the last 50 years. This period has also witnessed rising happiness levels around the world suggesting that happiness might be one of the reasons behind the decreasing mortality. A strong inverse correlation between positive emotional content and the risk of mortality does exist (Danner et al. 2001).

In a wide-ranging representative German longitudinal study of private households it was confirmed that even after controlling for initial health conditions, happiness increases life expectancy. A 10% increase in happiness decreases probability of death by 4%, and this effect is more pronounced in young males. In fact the correlation between being married and decreased mortality could be a result of increased happiness. Happiness plays a more important role in decreasing mortality risk for chronically ill people than for those who are not chronically ill (Guven et al. 2009). Increasing evidence suggests that the promotion of physical health without paying attention to mental and social well-being is an inadequate strategy which raises a pertinent question for the insurance industry- are their tools assessing biometric risks adequate?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines ‘health’ as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Apart from biological well-being, a number of additional elements are recognized to affect the health status of an individual, these include lifestyle, economic / social conditions, technology, etc. which can be denoted as "determinants of health." As mentioned earlier, one such determinant is happiness. Recognizing the relevance of happiness in the lives of human beings around the world, the United Nations (UN) on 28th Jun 2012, announced 20th March as the ‘International Day of Happiness’.

Happiness - Are you happy to use?

Since the introduction of rating factors and medical underwriting tests in the beginning of the 20th century, the life and health insurance industry has always used and improved underwriting tools that confirm absence or presence/progression of a disease. Although lifestyle and economic conditions have emerged in some markets as additional rating factors, they are seldom used in assessing extra mortality and / or extra morbidity. Based on the nature of risk covered, some attempt has been made to use non-traditional tools in the senior insurance and disability insurance markets. As it is now evident from various research papers that happiness has direct correlation with health, and thus with mortality/ morbidity - Are we happy to use happiness? If yes (it better be!), how to quantify happiness? Where there is a will, there is a way! In fact, there are many ways! In form of tried and tested tools.

Governments are ready- Are we?

Gross National Product (GNP) has long been the yardstick by which economies have been measured. GNP, however, fails to account the social and environmental costs of the progress. In the early 1970s, Bhutan recognized the influence of national happiness over national income. It adopted gross national happiness over GNP. This is now gaining ground in other regions. Costa Rica, well-known for being the greenest country in the world is an example of holistic and environmentally responsible development. Compared to other countries with similar income levels, Costa Rica ranks higher in human development, and tops the ‘Happy Planet Index’ table. In the United Kingdom, statistical authorities are experimenting with “National well-being”, and the European Commission has its “GDP and Beyond” project. Governments are ready- Are we?

If you are still not convinced, no issues, watch ‘The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)’ and be happy…

Note: The Image does not belong to the author


Category: Funding longer lives: Health/medicine


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