© 2017

The Changing Nature of Happiness

An In-Depth Study of a Town in North West England 1938–2016

  • Sandie McHugh


  • Provides access to unique qualitative and comparative data on happiness that can provide insight into how perceptions have changed from 1938-2016

  • Examines the theoretical and historical underpinnings of happiness as well as the varying definitions and changing nature of the concept over time

  • Outlines suggestions for future directions in happiness research and potential opportunities and challenges


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxi
  2. Martin Guha, Jerome Carson
    Pages 17-30
  3. John Haworth
    Pages 31-49
  4. Sandie McHugh, Jerome Carson
    Pages 69-85
  5. Robert Snape
    Pages 87-102
  6. Sandie McHugh
    Pages 129-141
  7. Back Matter
    Pages 143-152

About this book


This book shines a light on the meaning of happiness and how public perceptions of it have changed over time. A question that has engaged philosophers from the days of Aristotle, happiness is a subject of growing academic interest, and its recent integration into government policy is provoking increased debate into its definition and nature. Sandie McHugh and her associates build on the work of social anthropologist Tom Harrison’s ‘Worktown’ Mass Observation study from 1938, repeating the original study today. Together these accounts show how perceptions of happiness have changed over the years for the people of Bolton, UK, and reveal major difference between its definition then and now. This unique study is a useful tool in the understanding and study of happiness, offering invaluable insights for scholars and practitioners working in the fields of social psychology, positive psychology, health psychology and wellbeing. 


Positive Psychology Social Psychology Health psychology Cultural psychology Community psychology Happiness Wellbeing Leisure Comparative study Qualitative data Enjoyment

Editors and affiliations

  • Sandie McHugh
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Education and PsychologyUniversity of BoltonBoltonUnited Kingdom

About the editors

Sandie McHugh is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Bolton, UK. She originally became interested in applied psychology as a sports competitor and while working in the public sector. Her current research interests centre on cultural psychology, positive psychology and happiness.

Bibliographic information

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“This scholarly, but highly readable book demonstrates that we pay insufficient attention to Happiness. This book will provide professionals and the general public, on one hand with serious insights into such an important topic, but on the other hand offers a great antidote to the gloom and doom that seems to be all around us.” (Professor Kevin Gournay CBE, Kings College London, UK)

“This book takes readers to a journey of happiness starting from 1938 to the present time.  Read this book – and learn to find happiness in your own life.” (Professor Samuel M.Y. Ho, City University of Hong Kong)

“In 1938 the social investigative organisation, Mass Observation, asked the people of Bolton 'What makes you happy'. Nearly 80 years later Boltonians were again asked this question. Using the results of both surveys, this excellent collection of essays explains what changed between these years and what has stayed the same. It will be welcomed by scholars across disciplines as an expert intervention in the ongoing happiness debate and as an enlightening account of life in Mass Observation's 'Worktown'.” (Professor Claire Langhamer, University of Sussex, UK)

“A community study of happiness is long overdue, and equally rare, a study with an eye to its historical unfolding. This fine work by McHugh and her colleagues helps close this gap.” (Professor Robert A. Stebbins, FRSC University of Calgary, Canada)