Dating significantly older man
Mr Townshend may have thought of himself as a youthful radical, but this view is ancient and conventional.
The “seven ages of man”—the dominant image of the life-course in the 16th and 17th centuries—was almost invariably conceived as a rise in stature and contentedness to middle age, followed by a sharp decline towards the grave. “A few of us noticed the U-bend in the early 1990s,” says Andrew Oswald, professor of economics at Warwick Business School.
This personality trait may help explain some cross-cultural differences: a study comparing similar groups of British, Chinese and Japanese people found that the British were, on average, both more extrovert and happier than the Chinese and Japanese. All sorts of things in people's lives, such as relationships, education, income and health, shape the way they feel.
Being married gives people a considerable uplift, but not as big as the gloom that springs from being unemployed.
Studies following people over many years have shown that neuroticism is a stable personality trait and a good predictor of levels of happiness.
Neurotic people are not just prone to negative feelings: they also tend to have low emotional intelligence, which makes them bad at forming or managing relationships, and that in turn makes them unhappy.
The academics quoted lyrics written by Pete Townshend of The Who when he was 20: “Things they do look awful cold / Hope I die before I get old”.
They pointed out that Mr Townshend, having passed his 60th birthday, was writing a blog that glowed with good humour.
Education, in other words, seems to make people happy because it makes them richer.In 2008 France's president, Nicolas Sarkozy, asked two Nobel-prize-winning economists, Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz, to come up with a broader measure of national contentedness than GDP.Then last month, in a touchy-feely gesture not typical of Britain, David Cameron announced that the British government would start collecting figures on well-being.Whereas neuroticism tends to make for gloomy types, extroversion does the opposite.Those who like working in teams and who relish parties tend to be happier than those who shut their office doors in the daytime and hole up at home in the evenings.
Conventional economics uses money as a proxy for utility—the dismal way in which the discipline talks about happiness.