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Will the Olympics make us happier?

A new study into whether hosting the 2012 Olympic Games will boost our happiness is being launched by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), with funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The research, led by Professor Paul Dolan, will chart how people in London report their own well-being in the run up to, during and after the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. It will also look at other factors which can indirectly affect our happiness such health, participation in sport and volunteering.

Smiling Face (large)Professor Dolan, an economist in LSE's Department of Social Policy, said: 'Most of the things that have been measured around big sporting events are the things that are easy to measure, such as the effect on tourism and house prices. Our study is the first attempt to see if there is a link between the Olympics and more intangible things such as happiness, national pride and social cohesion.'

The research will include following a group of people over three years and tracking how satisfied they are with their life overall, as well as how happy or anxious they are on certain days.

The group will be surveyed online throughout 2011, 2012 and 2013 with extra telephone interviews being done during the Games in 2012 to capture how happy people rate themselves as the Games progress.

Professor Dolan said: 'As well as finding out the overall impact of hosting the Games, we also want to know how the outcomes at the Games affect people's happiness. So if the UK wins a gold in rowing, for example, who will feel better, for how long and in what ways?'

The study will compare wellbeing in London with Paris – which lost the bid to host the 2012 Games –  and Berlin – which didn't bid for the 2012 Games.  

Professor Dolan said: 'Understanding the full impact of big events, like the Olympic Games is extremely useful for decision makers who bid to bring these types of big events to the UK. Do they, for example, create a quick "feel good" fix or is there a longer legacy effect?

'Policymakers are increasingly interested in promoting well-being. This research will help us develop our techniques for evaluating large scale events and policies for their impact on happiness. If, for example, we find our measures are sensitive to big things – hosting the games in London for example –  while not being pulled around too much by small things – winning the gold fifteen minutes ago –  then it would lend credibility to them being used in other policy areas.'

Posted: 5 April 2011

Press office contact: Sue Windebank, Tel: 020 7955 7060, E: s.windebank@lse.ac.uk