Happiness – the second paradox of life and living in 2018

Yesterday I published the first in this short series of paradoxes of life and living in 2018. Today is the second instalment in this series.

Paradox 2: People’s lives have never been better, and yet there has never been so much happiness

The focus in this statement is, of course, mostly on the so-called western world: Europe, North America, Australasia.

But even elsewhere, and even with all the heartache and horror that’s going on right now in Syria and Yemen and Afghanistan and Somalia, and even with the threats to the environment, there is no doubt life  has never been better for the vast majority of humanity.

This is true in the context of our most basic needs of warmth and food and shelter.

It is true also loftier measures such as freedom and income and standards of living. Life expectancy continues to rise, and extreme poverty has been halved, and most people in most countries have more freedom now, and more money with which to enjoy that freedom, than ever before.

And yet for whatever reason, there seems to be a crisis of happiness in the world.

Antidepressant prescriptions in the UK more than doubled in the ten years to 2016, to a staggering 64.7 prescriptions — effectively more than one for every person in the country.

With the average antidepressant prescription per person per year hovering around the seven mark, that means an estimate of 9 million people in the UK taking antidepressant drugs. Bear in mind that the population of 15-year-olds and upwards in the UK is 54 million, so that’s about one in six people aged 15 and up taking antidepressants.

There is debate about whether this increase is a good or a bad thing (good: more people seeking and receiving help rather than holding their problems within; bad: skyrocketing numbers of people receiving medical treatment, and all the costs and potential side-effects that it brings).

But what can’t be denied is this.

In general, our lives have never been better, and in general, we have never been unhappier.


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