nep-hap New Economics Papers
on Economics of Happiness
Issue of 2022‒01‒24
two papers chosen by

  1. Taking the Pulse of Nations: a Biometric Measure of Well-being By David G. Blanchflower; Alex Bryson
  2. "The Better You Feel, the Harder You Fall": Health Perception Biases and Mental Health among Chinese Adults during the COVID-19 Pandemic By Nie, Peng; Wang, Lu; Dragone, Davide; Lu, Haiyang; Sousa-Poza, Alfonso; Ziebarth, Nicolas R.

  1. By: David G. Blanchflower; Alex Bryson
    Abstract: A growing literature identifies associations between subjective and biometric indicators of wellbeing. These associations, together with the ability of subjective wellbeing (SWB) metrics to predict health and behavioral outcomes, have spawned increasing interest in SWB as an important concept in its own right. However, some social scientists continue to question the usefulness of SWB metrics. We contribute to this literature in three ways. First, we introduce a biometric measure of wellbeing – pulse – which has been largely overlooked. Using nationally representative data on 165,000 individuals from the Health Survey for England (HSE) and Scottish Health Surveys (SHeS) we show that its correlates are similar in a number of ways to those for SWB, and that it is highly correlated with SWB metrics, as well as self-assessed health. Second, we examine the determinants of pulse rates in mid-life (age 42) among the 9,000 members of the National Child Development Study (NCDS), a birth cohort born in a single week in 1958 in Britain. Third, we track the impact of pulse measured in mid-life (age 42) on health and labor market outcomes at age 50 in 2008 and age 55 in 2013. The probability of working at age 55 is negatively impacted by pulse rate a decade earlier. The pulse rate has an impact over and above chronic pain measured at age 42. General health at 55 is lower the higher the pulse rate at age 42, while those with higher pulse rates at 42 also express lower life satisfaction and more pessimism about the future at age 50. Taken together, these results suggest social scientists can learn a great deal by adding pulse rates to the metrics they use when evaluating people’s wellbeing.
    JEL: I10 J1
    Date: 2021–12
  2. By: Nie, Peng (Xi’an Jiaotong University); Wang, Lu (Xi’an Jiaotong University); Dragone, Davide (University of Bologna); Lu, Haiyang (Southwestern University of Finance and Economics); Sousa-Poza, Alfonso (University of Hohenheim); Ziebarth, Nicolas R. (Cornell University)
    Abstract: The health risks of the current COVID-19 pandemic, together with the drastic mitigation measures taken in many affected nations, pose an obvious threat to public mental health. The social science literature has already established a clear link between mental health and sociodemographic as well as economic factors, and a growing number of studies investigate the role of biased risk perceptions. To assess this role in the context of COVID-19, this study first implements survey-based measures of over- and underconfidence in the health self-perceptions among Chinese adults during the pandemic. Then, it analyzes their relation to three mental health outcomes: life satisfaction, happiness, and depression (as measured by the CES−D). We show that the health overconfidence displayed by approximately 30% of the survey respondents is a clear risk factor for mental health problems; it is a statistically significant predictor of depression and low levels of happiness and life satisfaction. We also document that these effects are stronger in regions that experienced higher numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths. Recent research has shown that health overconfidence can influence risky behaviors such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, which may be particularly detrimental during a pandemic. Our results also offer clear guidelines for the implementation of effective interventions to temper overconfidence, particularly in uncontrollable situations like the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Keywords: health perception bias, overconfidence, underconfidence, mental health, China, COVID-19
    JEL: I12 I18 P46
    Date: 2021–12

General information on the NEP project can be found at For comments please write to the director of NEP, Marco Novarese at <>. Put “NEP” in the subject, otherwise your mail may be rejected.
NEP’s infrastructure is sponsored by the School of Economics and Finance of Massey University in New Zealand.