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The researchers describe those in the bottom 10 percent of the population in terms of life satisfaction as being in "misery".When Layard's team analyzed the results, they found that the biggest factors affecting misery were all noneconomic: mental health, physical health and whether someone had a partner. Mental health was the biggest predictor of all; it explained twice as much of the difference between people in terms of life satisfaction as physical health or income inequality did. Overall, the researchers claim, eliminating depression and anxiety would reduce misery by 20 percent, whereas eliminating poverty would reduce it by just 5 percent.So why is mental health, not poverty, the biggest cause of misery?In contrast, people do not adapt to poor mental health; nor does your neighbor's misery make you feel better.Layard and his colleagues asked how much the British government would have to spend to tackle mental health, physical health, unemployment or poverty. They concluded that mental health would be the cheapest of the four options: around 18 times more cost-effective in reducing misery and promoting happiness than targeting poverty.Hence Layard and his colleagues hypothesized that treating mental health would pay for itself. In effect, the U.K. government would be able to reduce misery at no cost.
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