Misery of Work Second Only to Illness for Many, Says LSE Study

Many people have been unhappy at their work place, which is found to be second only to illness in life. Based on a survey of British people using a smartphone app, researchers found many of them were happy doing other things than attending the office.

Researchers at the University of Sussex and the London School of Economics (LSE) analysed more than a million responses uploaded to a smartphone app, called Mappiness, that sporadically asks users questions such as how they are feeling, where they are and what they are doing.

Mappiness users receive a ‘ding’ on their smartphone at random times of the day, prompting them to complete a short survey, during which they rank their wellbeing using a sliding scale. in vogue since 2010, the app helps to map happiness across the UK.

The researchers found that British people experience a 7-8 per cent drop in happiness while at work, compared to doing activities outside of work.

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University of Sussex economist Dr George MacKerron, who created the app, says the immediacy of the technology offers great advantages. “Mappiness is interesting because it quizzes people in the moment, before they get a chance to reach for their rose-tinted glasses. For example, it is common to hear people say that they enjoy their work, but the Mappiness data show that people are happier doing almost anything other than working.”

Though many people may be positive about their jobs when reflecting on the meaning, purpose and salary, all these factors have been enveloped by a significant psychological cost, he said.

“It appears that work is highly negatively associated with momentary wellbeing: work really is disutility, as economists have traditionally assumed. At any given moment, we would rather be doing almost anything else,” he noted.

Interestingly, the most pleasurable experience reported by app users is lovemaking or intimacy, followed by leisure activities, such as going to the theatre, visiting a museum or playing sport. The survey has revealed that not many British people love to queue up as it was mentioned as the fifth most unpopular activity.

The average user responded for the survey in 60 separate occasions, allowing the researchers to build an accurate picture over time, compared to a single survey that can only really offer a momentary snapshot.

However, the researchers quickly added that the respondents were generally wealthier, younger and more likely to be employed or in full-time education than the UK population as a whole, hence it cannot be generalised.

The study has been published in The Economic Journal.

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