Which makes you happier: £1.6k or dancing?
Researchers from the London School of Economics have claimed that a number of sporting and leisure activities can bring people as much happiness as a pay rise. They said that the most rewarding way to spend your spare time was dancing - which they said brought as much happiness as having a £1,671 pay rise.
But can this really be right - and which activities will make you happiest?
HappinessThe study, for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, put a financial value on all sorts of activities. After dancing, they rated swimming as the activity most likely to make you happy, followed by going to the library or doing a team sport.
Overall they suggested that playing sport brought as much happiness as a £1,127 pay rise and regularly doing something involving music or dance was worth £1,084 a year.
They came to this unusual calculation through the government's happiness research. They stripped out everything else that could have an effect on happiness - such as age and education - to boil happiness down purely to these activities. Then they looked at how much income had to rise for happiness to increase by the same level without these activities.
Visiting libraries £1,359
Team sport £1,127
All arts (participating) £1,084
Taking part in craft activities £1,020
Going to plays £999
All arts (as audience) £935
Individual sport £828
Listening to music £742
DownsideHowever, before you get your trainers on, it's worth highlighting that the study also found that going to the gym actually made people less happy - as did playing a musical instrument.
The researchers said we shouldn't read too much into this, on the grounds that people who go to the gym may be generally less happy before they start - and in fact choose the gym because they are overweight and miserable. Likewise we have to factor in the stereotype of the miserable musician to the figures - which may be skewing the results.
It could be argued that this makes a bit of a nonsense of the study itself, and that it's perfectly possible to come up with alternative reasons why someone who does each of these activities could be happier - which has nothing to do with the activity itself.
You could argue, for example, that people who go swimming are willing to be seen in a bathing costume and have plenty of leisure time - both of which may make them happier. Likewise, someone who takes part in team sports may be sociable and community-minded - neither of which have anything to do with the sport itself.
In explaining the results, the researchers acknowledged that it wasn't a perfect method, but that these are arguably the best methods available to us for this type of analysis - given the data.
But what do you think? Do these things make us happier? Or are happy people simply more likely to indulge in them?