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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > Jan-18 > Smile or die

Smile or die

The happiness industry is a symptom of the sad state of society

Can we measure happiness? Since David Cameron lauded “General Well-Being” (GWB), over GDP, the official view has been yes. In November, the Office for National Statistics reported that we are generally slightly happier since the Brexit result—at least in England. There’s a surprise!

I say that as most of those I encounter on social media and elsewhere could hardly express greater misery over Brexit; they may admittedly not be the perfect cross-section. But their gloom echoes the miseries assailing the wider population that I encounter in daily news coverage. One figure from another government-funded project, states that one in four girls suffer from clinical depression by the age of 14, another survey that half of all 11-18-year-old girls experience online bullying. Suicides among men continue to rise—closely correlated with their economic exposure. Other reports tell me that fear of the future is rendering the UK economy stagnant; while MI5 warns us that Britain faces its most severe terrorist threat. Alongside this daily diet of gloom, I note that dystopic fantasies dominate the popular imagination, never expectations of a better world. Blade Runner, The Hunger Games, The Handmaid’s Tale draw in the crowds, by depicting future disaster.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s January 2018 issue: Five writers attempt to plot the impending advances in shopping, politics, sex, food and computing through 2018. James Plunkett looks at shopping and explains how personalised prices will hand even more power to the big companies; Theo Bertram outlines why political volatility is here to stay and what it means for us; Kate Devlin argues that sex robots are only a part of the impending sexual revolution; Stephanie Boland outlines why we’ll all end up eating lab grown food; and Jay Elwes explains the next steps in our computing quantum leap. Elsewhere in the issue: Dani Rodrik uncovers the truth behind the great globalisation lie—there were always going to be losers, Iona Craig delves into the war in Yemen—the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, Chris Tilbury explains why Britain urgently needs a plan for its failing prisons
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