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Happiness as a Duty

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Trudy Dehue

For many years, happiness researchers reported that children in the Netherlands are among the happiest in the world. Like other countries with high happiness scores of their youth the Dutch took pride in these figures. However, as these children grow up this idyll seems to be ruined. Increasing numbers of young adults ask for mental health care or medication against depression, or look for alternative means to increase their wellbeing. How to respond to that? Some experts emphasize that depression is a severe mental illness and a brain disorder. Critical commentators, however, express irritation about the ‘lack of resilience’ and ‘over-sensitiveness’ in this age group, or scorn the medicalization of minor problems in welfare states. Trudy Dehue looks for another explanation taking societal developments and current research paradigms into account. She argues that we have come to regard happiness as a matter of individual performance and lack thereof as a matter of personal failure. Striving for it is an instance of the pressure to perform – which can make people quite unhappy.

Trudy Dehue is a professor at the University of Groningen in the field of Science & Technology Studies. She is known for her books De depressie-epidemie [The depression epidemic] and Betere mensen [Better people].

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