Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Football & happiness – a game of 2 halves 

 brazil_flag_with_soccer_ball_1600_wht_2747Now the 2014 World Cup is underway again there will be much speculation about the impact it will have on the host country.

After the last one there was quite a bit of research which showed that such events did have positive outcomes.

We’ll have to wait and see if the same thing happens this time round in Brazil.


Fans celebrating the upcoming 2010 FIFA World ...

Image via Wikipedia

Football can make people happier. Two economists tried but failed to prove that football was good for a country’s economy. But when they looked at national pride and happiness they got better results.

They looked for changes in life satisfaction in 12 European countries over 30 years up to 2004, and especially looked at how people felt following Olympic, World Cup, and European Cup competitions.

They were interested in whether or not teams doing better than expected had a positive effect on people from that country and whether countries hosting the competitions benefitted.

There was no evidence that performing better than expected had any real effect on people’s life satisfaction scores. Nor did planning to host such an event make people any happier.

But there was strong evidence that actually hosting an event did make people happier in that country. In fact it made people 3 times happier than if they had gained a higher level education, 1.5 times the happiness boost associated with getting married, and nearly large enough a difference in happiness to offset the misery of a divorce!

Sadly 1 year later the happiness effect had worn off. Whereas being married keeps you happier longer.

So perhaps the secret is to live in a country hosting such an event to get the short-term happiness boost and get married in the following 12 months for a longer-lasting effect!

FYI Married people are happier than single people (of course it could be that happy people get married more easily). And the 30% improvement in spousal happiness even counteracts all the negative affects of unemployment.

Greater Manchester Police reported an increase in domestic abuse the day England were knocked out of the World Cup. It was the largest number reported since New Year’s Eve and 16% up on the same time the previous year.

Updated 10 July 2010: The World Cup seems to have had a unifying effect on the rainbow nation, perhaps even more than the 1995 Rugby World Cup. And if the government figures are correct South Africa will break even on its investment in airports, motorways, and high speed rail links.

There has been a show of unity, pride and patriotism and the crime rates have been low despite South Africa’s reputation as one of the world’s capitals in murder and rape.

So maybe the economists have got it right. Apparently psychiatrists are concerned that South Africans will experience a post event depression when the World Cup finishes. Let’s hope it’s 1-0 to the economists.

And a 40 year research project in America reported in New Scientist (10 July 2010) shows that when local college football teams did well in the 2 weeks before an election the sitting party won more votes than when the team lost. So if you want to stay in power make sure your local team plays well!

Updated 20 September 2010: Despite concern that South African policemen are too fat to chase criminals – the police minister said they shouldn’t be “massaging beer bellies” – it seems that the get-fit boot camps put in place for the World Cup may have paid off. (This in a country, similar to USA and Germany, where 60% of the population are overweight or obese).

Despite SA having the highest murder rates in the world, outside war zones or countries with drug cartels like Mexico and Columbia, the World Cup showed what could be done. There has been a sharp decrease in murders (down almost 9%) and violent robberies for the first time since nation-wide records were first collected in 1995-6 (when there were 27,000 murders compared to 17,000 this year).


Same sex Czech mate?

When people mention Prague in the Czech Republic or Riga in Latvia you probably think of booze-fuelled stag parties and liberal attitudes towards sex and drugs.

The latest report from the National Opinion Research Centre (NORC) at the University of Chicago shows that since 1994 sexual relations between adults of the same sex has been increasingly accepted in most of the 16 countries in the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP).

There are 4 countries however where the opposite appears to be true. In Czech Republic, Latvia, Cyprus, and Russia, the answer “not wrong at all” in relation to questions about same sex activity declined in all the three surveys (1994, 1998, and 2008). And in the Czech Republic, Latvia, and Russia, the number of people who said it was “always wrong” went up in each of the three surveys.

Aleš Rumpel, director of the country’s gay film festival, Mezipatra, and a board member for the new NGO gay rights group PROUD said;“I don’t think these numbers are really all that surprising because I don’t think Czech people are as liberal or accepting as they think they are”.

There is an argument that whilst people will say they support gay rights they are less supportive when it comes to what homosexuals actually do in the privacy of their bedroom. The Czech Republic is not particularly religious and it seems that there has not been that much debate about gender inequality and gay rights until recently.

And it seems that czechs might not be so homophobic as it appears from the NORC  data. That study came out just days before another set of statistics was released, compiled by the Center for Research of Public Opinion (CVVM) that showed nearly three-quarters of Czechs supported registered partnerships for gay couples, and 45 percent supported gay marriage, a number that has risen since registered partnerships were made legal in 2006 after being rejected in 1998

Source: Prague Post 8 June 2011

Those you have read – top 10 in 2010

When you first sit down to write a blog you hope people are going to want to read it – unless you plan it as a private journal where you can unburden yourself or have a rant at the world (OK so occasionally I have a rant too).

So it’s great for me that so many people have read my blog posts and some of them have even posted comments  – usually in a friendly way although occasionally mischievously.

So which posts had most readers in 2010? In reverse order:

10th most read: Living Together Apart (LTA) on the increase

This was a follow-on from my first ever posting and obviously reflected current trends among couples of all ages

9th most read: Daydream believer

This was an early post which originated in contributions I made to the Daily Mirror and Eve magazine. Perhaps we are all romantics at heart and want to believe in the power of dreams but it was also expanded into a guest business blog for my friends at Smoking Gun PR

8th most read: I’m stressed – gaze into my eyes

Well we all prefer a pretty face don’t we but it turns out that swearing also helps us withstand pain better!

7th most read: What sex is your job?

And still on pretty faces it seems you can sometimes be too attractive for your own good.

6th most read: Shoot yourself in the foot – join Facebook

As an avowed non-Facebook person it was pleasing to see that people did want to understand the down-sides of entrusting your personal life to it.

5th most read: Pigeons smarter than people??

Surprisingly popular perhaps but maybe it explains why some people still feed these flying vermin, especially outside high street bakers’ shops.

4th most read: What makes you happy?

And on a more positive note .. don’t we all want to be happy?

3rd most read: So many “friends” yet still lonely

My first post about the perils of Facebook – and yes I admit it was a bit of a rant!

2nd most read: 101 reasons why you can’t live together

The very first thing I ever posted and it obviously struck a chord (and thanks to everyone who contributed both willingly and unknowingly!)

But by an overwhelming number of views – 3 times the second most read – the clear favourite and most read post:

Blushing – do men find it attractive?

This was another early post and originated with a contribution I made to an article in the Daily Express but has continued to appear in my top posts section.

So thank you everyone and all the very best for 2011 when I will do my best to bring you more interesting posts.


Dave – I’d be happy with £50k!

Bhutan_Gross_National_HappinessDavid  Cameron says a government’s actions could make people “feel better as well as worse” and it was “high time” to recognise that GDP was an “incomplete way” of measuring the country’s progress.

He confirmed that the government was asking the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to devise ways of measuring wellbeing in addition to tracking economic growth so that he could introduce a wellbeing index from next year. France is also considering something similar.

According to the Number 10 website, the ONS will lead a debate called the National Wellbeing Project which will seek to establish the key areas that matter most to people’s wellbeing. Potential indicators include health, levels of education, inequalities in income and the environment.

Finland was recently chosen as the best country in the world to live in using similar indicators. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has considered using social indicators like average years of schooling, gender wage gaps, participation in voluntary groups, and suicide rates.

Wellbeing, like happiness or satisfaction, is an elusive concept and something economists, among others, have discussed for years. The Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan was the first country to introduce the idea of a Gross National Happiness Index in 2006 (although the KIng had coined the term back in the 1970s).

So it’s not all about money but having some helps. An American economist in the 1970s discovered that people in industrialised countries were getting richer – but they weren’t getting any happier, despite what the American Declaration of Independence might have said. And who said we have a right to be happy anyway?

For those of us who don’t live in “Rooney-world” or bankers-ville, the lowest earners are the ones that struggled with life and our happiness increases until we reach an income of $75,000 or £50,000 a year (about twice the average income in the UK) when it levels off. Once we earn more than that the extra hours we have to work and the difficulty of maintaing a good work-life balance stop us being happier.

The researchers at Princeton said: “More money doesn’t necessarily buy more happiness but less money is associated with emotional pain”. High earners however were more satisfied with life as a whole and the more they earned the more they were pleased with themselves.

However other research shows that when it comes to salary it’s about where you are in the pecking order. For some people it doesn’t matter how much you earn if someone is earning more than you. In experiments such people will accept a lower salary providing they are the top earner.

And yet other research at the University of Illinois shows that while money can make you happy it doesn’t necessarily make you satisfied. Professor Ed Diener said; “Positive feelings are less affected by money and more by what you do day to day”

As I said at the beginning this is an elusive concept to measure. And it may be down to personality which is partly inherited. Keirsey Research confirmed the $75,000 threshold but using their personality questionnaire found the biggest factor in happiness was the person’s personality type. 74% of extraverts are happy compared to 56% of introverts.

Updated 25 February 2011:

Latest statistics from the ONS suggest sleep and bicycles may be involved in being happy!

Updated 2 March 2011: According to a major social research project, Understanding Society, commissioned by the Economic & Social Research Council, Britain’s happiest couples are married, less than 5 years into their relationship,and childless.

The survey will follow the lives of 40,000 households, interviewing 100,000 people over 20 years. It has been described as a “living laboratory of British life”.

According to this survey happiness declines the longer a couple are together and the older they are (these things tend to go together of course) and married couples are happier than co-habiting couples, particularly for better-educated people. And children are happier if their parents are happy.

So happiness = relationship of less than 5 years + both educated to degree level + no children + man is in employment.


Living together apart (LTA) on the increase

Living together apart (the topic of my first post on this blog) has increased by 40% over the last ten years.

According to Halifax Home Insurance and there are now a million such relationships – or 1 in 20 couples with almost 1 in 5 of these “live-apart-ners” 35 or older.

The main reason they say they do it is because they have too many possessions to fit under one roof.

The survey also found that couples were now more cautious, waiting almost 2 years after first dating before they moved in together, and it was usually the men who delayed more.


101 reasons why you can’t live together?

“Living together apart” seems to be a popular choice these days,  whether to maximise benefits payments or so you can have breathing space to do your own thing. But I wonder how far apart you can actually get with text messaging, skyping, not to mention tweeting and face-book!

So what are the reasons people can’t live together?

  1. You’ve put books on the bookshelf!
  2. You never notice hairs on the floor
  3. Why do you need so many CDs?
  4. You start clearing things away before I’ve finished cooking
  5. I can’t stand the soaps – they all have the same plots and interchangeable actors
  6. I can’t understand why you don’t like my Bulgarian gypsy music?
  7. You hate my cat! – You hate my dog!
  8. We’d need a bigger bed (and I like the one I’ve got)
  9. You’ll be upgrading my computer next – You’ve upgraded my computer – what was wrong with WordPerfect? – Of course I won’t upgrade you
  10. You move your lips when you read
  11. You tell me what’s in my newspaper before I’ve read it
  12. What do you mean you want sex more than once a month?
  13. God, you’re not watching Top Gear on Dave again are you?
  14. You never put my clothes away neatly when you’ve been wearing them! – You never put your own clothes away when you’ve been wearing them
  15. Why would you want a joint bank account?
  16. You never scrape the candle wax out of the bath
  17. Diet coke on cornflakes is not a health food
  18. I haven’t got your address in my sat nav
  19. It was definitely your turn to pay!
  20. Why would I fancy your best friend?
  21. Yes it is a rat, but it’s a pet rat – Your snake ate my pet rat
  22. You drank nearly all my vodka and filled up the bottle with water – I was p****d. You’re lucky it was only water
  23. You are always right. – No, I just can’t remember the last time I was wrong – She’s Russian and she’s right – OK!
  24. You’re still using that dating site
  25. I’m not sure I can be that flexible?
  26. You take my OK magazine and read it on the toilet…. this is not OK!
  27. Who is that with you in the photograph? I thought you were on a business trip!
  28. Why do your staff think I’m your book-keeper?
  29. Why does your mother think I’m gay?
  30. You said you’d never been married! – You said you’d never had kids!
  31. I like it that you are so independent
  32. My friends are real! – Do you really think so? Are you sure?
  33. What’s wrong with texting in bed? – You’re confusing texting and sexting, again – SMS has nothing to do with sado-masochism or sex
  34. You drink skinny decaff. What’s the point? – At least I drink coffee, not just tea with lemon
  35. I thought a birthday card would remind you how old you are – I hate seeing you getting older every day
  36. If I buy you flowers you think I must be feeling guilty – What’s wrong with a house plant? It will last longer than flowers.
  37. It’s not just an electric guitar – it’s a modern design icon! – You’ll be telling me next it’s an investment
  38. You keep using my “herbal” medication – Your Bob Marley accent is rubbish
  39. Your real long-term relationship is with your laptop and a bottle of wine – What’s wrong with multi-tasking?
  40. I’m worried about the kid’s inheritance – So how much did you say you had saved up?
  41. I heard you say you were planning to ski – you hate cold weather – I said SKI-ing darling
  42. You squeeze the toothpaste from the wrong end – At least I brush my teeth – So do I but the garlic lingers on
  43. I’m sure you told me where she had her tattoo. How else would I know about it?
  44. No? Well it must have been on Facebook! – She must not understand the privacy settings
  45. Why do you have tomato ketchup with everything? – I can’t stand the smell of brown sauce
  46. You know I want vinegar on my chips – not mayonnaise
  47. You are always quoting Mae West at me – it’s not funny any more! – And you think W C Fields is funny?
  48. I can’t believe you think I’m like that “Desperate Housewives” person! – Well at least she can cook!
  49. You’d rather believe Google than me – Well I sold the encyclopaedias because you said you knew it all
  50. Why do I have to go hungry when you’re on yet another diet? – Am I your mother?
  51. You won’t get your dog “fixed” – You first, set an example
  52. I wasn’t comparing you. I just said she looked nice – But you told her at least three times!
  53. You’re always posing – Life’s too short not to pose
  54. Which part of “I’m not the marrying kind” didn’t you understand? – Who said anything about getting married? I just want your babies
  55. Let’s wait until you’ve done that personality profile so I can match our types
  56. My therapist says it wouldn’t be advisable for me to live with anyone – And how do you feel about that?
  57. I’m not looking for a father figure – So you think I’m too old for you? – Well you said I made you feel like a dirty old man – That wasn’t because of your age!
  58. Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind it doesn’t matter!
  59. You think more about your pigeons than me – At least they know their way home
  60. You thought it was OK for the Americans to finish top of our group! – You felt sorry for the French team – cheating b*****ds
  61. I thought you told me he was bringing back one of those venezuelans? – You said you’d stop wearing the strip when England went out
  62. What’s more important, buying me a ring or going to Brazil in 4 years? – If you have to ask!
  63. You’d rather believe your dreams than me. I’ve never met this person!

Thanks to you all – let’s add some more on a different page