The Sunday Times, 18th October 1998
Laugh? Modern man is forgetting how!
We have never had it so sad. Nineties man is more miserable than his counterparts 40 years ago - despite being more prosperous, a study has revealed.
Experts blame the constant striving for material, career and personal success for the trend, backing up the old adage that money cannot buy happiness.

The 1950s are traditionally remembered as austere years of economic depression beset by the cold war. Yet, according to evidence presented to the International Congress of Humour in Switzerland last week, the average man laughed for 18 minutes a day during that decade. In the 1990s we chuckle for only six minutes a day, despite huge rises in the standards of living.
«We seem to have created today a society which puts such a high premium on performance and success that when people fail to reach these levels they are possessed with a sense of shame and depression,» said Dr Michael Titze, a German psychotherapist who addressed more than 400 delegates in Basel. «People think they have no reason to laugh, even at themselves in adversity.»
It is a phenomenon reflected in surveys that show comedy programmes from decades ago produced more laughs and are remembered more fondly than today's fare.
The humour-failure, as Victor Meldrew, played by Richard Wilson in One Foot in the Grave, might say, is no laughing matter. While Dawn French, the comedy actress, may be pleased to know that laughing can make you healthier as well as happier.
The research of Oliver James, a psychologist, also supports the view that modern life makes us feel like losers even if we are winners. «The consensus among psychiatrists is that we are now anything up to 10 times more likely to be depressed than we were in the 1950s,» said James. «Advanced consumer capitalism exploits our instincts to compare ourselves with each other vastly more than we used to. We become deeply dissatisfied, relative to others, despite being richer.»
«The violence rate has hugely increased, which is a sign of depression,» said James. «Three-quarters of violent men are depressed. Rates of compulsion - alcohol misuse, drugs misuse, eating disorders and gambling problems - have also increased.»
Last year James published a book, Britain on the Couch, which sought to prove that the way we live, rather than our genes, induces in our bodies low levels of serotonin, the «happiness» brain chemical.
For William Miller, losing us job seems to have worked wonders for his serotonin. Last week Miller, 47, from Northampton, was dismissed as a fundraiser with the Wildlife Trust for allegedly making colleagues too miserable. He hasn't felt happier for years.
«I am much happier now not working than I was when I was earning £40,000 10 years ago. People today are less happy and the reason is that they pursue material wealth instead of contentment,» said Miller, a branch chairman of the Manic Depression Fellowship.
The trend towards being down in the dumps has invaded America as well as Britain and the rest of Europe. In 1957, an opinion poll for the University of Chicago reported that 35% of people said they were «very happy» with life, whereas a recent poll for the same body showed only 30% of people were «very happy». Yet, over the same period, salaries for Americans have increased fourfold, even after taking inflation into account.
What is the answer? Michael Argyle, emeritus professor of psychology at Oxford Brookes University, has written more than 25 books and is an expert on happiness. In his book The Psychology of Money he concludes: «Those who value money most are less satisfied and in poorer mental health. This may be because money provides only superficial kinds of satisfaction.» A simpler analysis is provided by Adam Hargreaves, whose father Roger created the Mr. Men characters. «Mr. Grumpy would say there was far too much fun around, anyway. Mr. Grumble would agree,» said Hargreaves, who now creates Mr. Men material. And Mr. Tickle would say the answer was more tickling.»