Which makes you happier: £1.6k or dancing?

Businessman dancing on cubicle desk

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?


The 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.

Positive impacts

Dancing £1,671
Swimming £1,630
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


However, 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?

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