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Conventional economics uses money as a proxy for utility—the dismal way in which the discipline talks about happiness.
Things go downhill from youth to middle age until they reach a nadir commonly known as the mid-life crisis. This curious finding has emerged from a new branch of economics that seeks a more satisfactory measure than money of human well-being.
This personality trait may help explain some cross-cultural differences: a study comparing similar groups of British, Chinese and Japanese people found that the British were, on average, both more extrovert and happier than the Chinese and Japanese. All sorts of things in people's lives, such as relationships, education, income and health, shape the way they feel.
Being married gives people a considerable uplift, but not as big as the gloom that springs from being unemployed.
Which suggests either that women are more likely to experience more extreme emotions, or that a few women are more miserable than men, while most are more cheerful.
Two personality traits shine through the complexity of economists' regression analyses: neuroticism and extroversion.