How two economics professors changed the way we think about wellbeing

Wellbeing has come into fashion – it’s a hot topic.  Especially for us Cantabrians.  By going through trauma, we have learnt about the importance of wellbeing – of looking after ourselves, our friends, family and community.

But a recent project got me thinking about wellbeing on a completely different level.  Great Scott was tasked with launching a new book written by some very big brains, Professors Paul Dalziel and Caroline Saunders from Lincoln University’s Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit.

Both Paul and Caroline are experts in wellbeing economics.  To put it bluntly, their book says the way we’ve been running the world’s economies has caused worldwide problems, such as global warming and rising inequality.  Our focus on productivity and making dollars and cents at all costs is not providing the happiness we thought it would.  Some of us might be making more money, but our wellbeing is suffering.

Their book – Wellbeing Economics: The Capabilities Approach to Prosperity – talks about how we need to think about wellbeing first and crunch the numbers second.  We need to harness the fact that people actually want to be happy and well, and create policies that help them do that.  Then they say, economies will prosper.

Listening to Paul and Caroline talk with absolute passion about this was a bit of a lightbulb moment for me.  None of us want to be unhappy.  To feel stressed out, burdened by life and its expectations.  In our own lives we generally do all we can to be happy and feel well.

But what happens if we were given the opportunity to do something that made us even happier?  It might be working a four-day week, as we’ve been hearing a bit about lately.  Or maybe a policy committing to paying a living wage, or a workplace health initiative for staff.   Such initiatives could make us happier, happier people are healthier people, healthier people can be more productive….you get my drift.  I can see how economic success can come…it’s just going about it a different way.

And these changes don’t have to just come from big business or Government.  What about the small things we, as a community, can do to support each other – things that will allow our friends and neighbours to increase their own wellbeing and happiness.  We can all play a part in this big picture thinking.

Clearly Paul and Caroline have hit on an idea that has struck a chord.  The eBook has set records. Within days of its launch, it had been downloaded nearly 9,000 times – making it easily the most downloaded Palgrave Pivot book published in 2018. 

Clearly I’m not the only one who found this new approach to wellbeing pretty refreshing.

Want to find out more?  Read Paul’s opinion piece from The Press here (https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/107879474/wellbeing-budget-must-support-businesses-to-contribute-to-peoples-lives) or download the free eBook (or order a hard copy!) here (https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-319-93194-4). 

Wellbeing Economics: The Capabilities Approach to Prosperity has been published as an Open Access eBook by Palgrave McMillan in the UK.