Institute Policy Wellbeing

A Wellbeing Kuznets Curve

A Kuznets curve for well-being would state that initially well-being increases with material wealth but then at some point it actually starts declining (so as we get richer we get less happy!).

To make this concrete think of this example: As wealth increases from a low base, health improves, more food = less hunger; community improves as we have time for people, we have technology to connect with them.

Then as wealth increases health may start to decline as we get obese and disconnected: food is so cheap and convenient that we have self control problems, we don’t have a reason to do physical exercise. Community declines as we can live on our own. (Roughly: short-term impulse control issues dominate long-term well-being).

What happens beyond this point. Do things get better or do live permanently with an epidemic of obesity and a decline in community? The answer likely does not depend on wealth or technology but on our own social, political and cultural choices.