UCL Public Policy


The Science of Happiness

Finding out what will really improve lives and acting on it is the serious business of government

David Cameron, British Prime Minister, 25 November 2010

Happiness, wellbeing and quality of life have been climbing up the public policy agenda in recent years, with governments apparently devoting increasing attention to how to improve people’s life satisfaction. But what lies beneath these warm words about the need to improve quality of life? What makes people happy remains a hotly debated issue. With uncertainties about what conditions and interventions can improve happiness or quality of life, it remains unclear how governments and others can act to improve it, or how such improvements can be measured or recorded. This presents significant challenges to attempts to improve the happiness of populations. What can policy-makers learn from the evidence on human happiness and how can they put this evidence into policy and practice?

This event will bring researchers and policy-makers together to explore some of the evidence on what makes people happy, [including considering the relations between genes and happiness and what causes humans to be optimistic]. It will seek to draw out the implications for policy and consider how policy-makers can act to help to  improve quality of life and deliver on their promises of happiness.


  • Dr Tali Sharot (UCL Cognitive, Perceptual and Brain Sciences)
  • Dr Jan-Emmanuel De Neve (UCL School of Public Policy)
  • Dr Gemma Harper, Chief Social Researcher, DEFRA
  • Dr Stephen Hicks, Assistant Programme Director - Measuring National Well-being, ONS
  • Chaired by Professor Brian Collins (Director, UCL Centre for Engineering Policy)

Organised by UCL Public Policy and the UCL Grand Challenge of Human Wellbeing

6pm, 29 May 2012 

Sir Ambrose Fleming Lecture Theatre, Roberts Building, UCL
Torrington Place, London WC1E 7JE