The BMJ Today: Happiness, money, and mental health

Opening your curtains to a stunning view of the Scottish Highlands may put a smile on your face, but is it enough to make you change your job? The NHS Highlands is hoping so with its new recruitment programme using picturesque images to recruit doctors to work in remote and rural areas.

But Nigel Hawkes has a more cynical view of what makes people happy—money. He points out that recent improvements in national wellbeing have coincided with rises in gross domestic product. And since international research has shown that gross domestic product correlates with happiness better than almost all indices of wellbeing, he questions whether it is worth measuring happiness at all.

Mike Smith, media doctor and former general practitioner, would have no problem in reallocating the money. Asked what he would do if given £1m in our latest BMJ Confidential column, he says he would give it to the Patients Association, so that it could campaign harder “to turn the NHS into the productive orchard it could be with joined up health and social care.” He claims, however, that what has made him happiest is not money, but his regular radio programmes “answering the nation’s medical questions in understandable language.” He believes that “patients’ own web based medical and technical understanding will make them an equal, if not the top, player in decisions about their personal healthcare.”

The thousands of people detained in UK immigration centres may find this vision of healthcare hard to reconcile with reality. Hugh Grant-Peterkin and colleagues’ editorial raises concerns about the standard of care in these centres, particularly for people with mental health problems. “Many alternatives to immigration detention exist, and these should be explored before vulnerable people are placed in such facilities,” they say.

A more positive view of mental healthcare came from the recent television documentaries on life inside Broadmoor Hospital. The hospital’s clinical director, Amlan Basu, describes in a BMJ blog how he hopes the programmes will help tackle public misconceptions about severe mental health illness. “A really common misconception is that patients who come to Broadmoor are so irreparably damaged that they can’t move on. In fact, patients stay at the hospital on average just under five years and with a far lower repeat offending rate than is found in the prison population,” he says.

Jackie Annis is a technical editor at The BMJ