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"Mapping happiness? There's an app for that"

LSE researchers launch iPhone app to track UK's happiness across space and time

mappinessMappiness, an iPhone app mapping happiness across the UK, is officially launched today at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). The project will help researchers understand how people's feelings are affected by their immediate environment -- including features such as pollution, noise, weather conditions and green space.

The app, which is the first of its kind, pings users daily to ask how they're feeling, and uses satellite positioning (GPS) to discover their location while they answer. Response locations are linked to environmental data, which will be fed into statistical models of wellbeing.

Lead researcher George MacKerron, of LSE's Department of Geography and Environment, said: 'Tracking happiness through time alone is an idea with history: in the 19th century economists imagined a 'hedonimeter', a perfect happiness gauge, and psychologists have more recently run small-scale 'experience sampling' studies to see how mood varies with activity, time of day, and so on.

'What's exciting here is the addition of the spatial dimension. By tracking across space as well as time, and by making novel use of a technology that millions of people already carry with them, we hope to find better answers to questions about the impacts of natural beauty, environmental problems -- maybe even aspects of climate -- on individual and national wellbeing.'

Professor Lord Richard Layard, director of the Well-being Programme at LSE's Centre for Economic Performance, said: 'Mappiness is a revolutionary research idea. It is the best method so far devised for understanding how people's emotions are affected by the buildings and natural environment in which they move.'

National happiness levels are updated in real-time on the project website, www.mappiness.org.uk , alongside maps and timelines derived from the response data. App users also get access to personalised charts analysing their own mood in return for taking part.

Mappiness is a free download on Apple's online App Store. The researchers aim to get at least 3,000 people joining in the project. All iPhone owners are invited to take part.

Please note that the project focuses on happiness across the UK although people in other countries are welcome to sign up. Those signing up should look out for the time difference when setting the hours when they can be beeped: all times in the app are UK times (GMT or GMT+1) . For more information, click here


Contact George MacKerron g.j.mackerron@lse.ac.uk or call 020 7193 7369, 07917 735 567.

Notes for editors

* The researchers behind the app are George MacKerron and Dr Susana Mourato, environmental economists in the Department of Geography & Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

* This official launch follows a one-week technical pilot.

* The 'mappiness' app beeps users at random moments one or more times a day. It asks how 'happy', how 'relaxed' and how 'awake' they feel using sliding scales. It also asks for brief contextual information -- on activity, companionship and location -- which is needed as a control. Users who are outdoors can optionally contribute a photo. While users answer, location is determined using satellite positioning (GPS) and noise levels are measured using the iPhone's microphone. All data is sent back - wirelessly, anonymously and securely - to a central data store.

* Ongoing app updates are planned. For example, users will in future be able to download all their own data -- as spreadsheet and Google Earth files -- to analyse for themselves.

* Details and resources are available at http://www.mappiness.org.uk/ -- including real-time happiness meters, a three-day national happiness index chart, and a photo-map of the happiest locations in the UK.

* Print- and screen-ready artwork is available on request.