02 May 2007

The value of "friendship"

Report in the Daily Mail of a ‘study’ published by the Journal of Socio-Economics.
They say you can’t put a price on true friendship. But that hasn’t stopped economists having a go. And after all their additions and subtractions, they have calculated exactly how valuable friends and family can be. Seeing them every day is worth the equivalent of an £85,000 pay rise, they say. Even chatting to neighbours frequently makes us as happy as if we had been handed a £37,000 increase. And getting married is the same as an extra £50,000 in the pay packet (and that’s after the cost of the wedding). ... The study took information from 8,000 households across Britain. Those surveyed were asked to rate the level of happiness certain changes in their life would bring, ranging from pay increases to face to face time with friends and loved ones.

‘An increase in the level of social involvements is often worth many tens of thousands of pounds a year extra in terms of life satisfaction,’ said Dr Nattavudh Powdthavee, from the University of London’s Institute of Education, which carried out the research. ‘Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness. One potential explanation is that social activities tend to require our attention while they are being experienced, so that the joy derived from them lasts longer in our memory. ‘Income, on the other hand, is mostly in the background. We don’t normally have to pay so much attention to the fact that we’ll be getting a pay packet at the end of the week or month, so the joy derived from income doesn’t last as long.’ On average, a person earning £10,000 a year who has face to face time with friends and loved ones every day was as happy as one earning £95,000 a year who hardly ever saw their friends and relatives. (‘Why true friendship is as good as an £85,000 rise’, Daily Mail, 1 May 2007.)

This ‘research’ is said to have been carried out by an Institute of the University of London, so it may be presumed that it, and all concerned in it, were supported by money (freedom) confiscated from taxpayers (individuals).

How meaningful is this ‘research’? The measure of ‘happiness’ used is how individuals would rate their ‘happiness’ when asked about it, knowing what the prevailing social views on ‘happiness’ are and what they ought to say. And, even then, it is only statistical. Who but a collective body, or someone with a vested interest in promoting collectivist ideology, would have had enough interest in obtaining this dubious information to pay for it to be done?

These days statistical ‘research’ is taken to justify universal prescriptions, leaving out any possibility of individual differences (or at least, any possibility of respect for individual differences.) ‘Friends’ are supposed to be people who make you feel reconciled to your frustrated position in life, not those who help you in your efforts to improve it.