One thing about getting on, is that you find you have seen an awful lot of surveys in your time. Every day has brought tales of “new research” from some team or other, working in some department of some university, or news of an article by a professor in a journal you have never heard of. Happy people tend to hiccup more, they say, goats experience feelings of sympathy, 43 is the best age for sex and the average person sneezes 23,784 times in a lifetime. That sort of thing.
I’m certainly not against researchers or professors or even journals I’ve never heard of, but I feel relaxed about their findings – as I do about the steady stream of contradictory health warnings.
Now a study at Warwick University medical school has shown that people grow happier as they grow older. Although the physical quality of life goes down, mental satisfaction increases, they say. Jolly good show. Well done, you researchers.
There’s one possible explanation for this epidemic of elderly benignity: old people don’t mind admitting to being happy. Everyone else feels obliged to say they are tormented, stressed-out, angry or driven.
I’m such a tiresomely genial old codger that I can’t help worrying about the mental satisfaction of the people carrying out all this research. Imagine the anxiety about whether the grant will come through and whether the academic tenure is safe. The professor frets about whether the journal will accept the article, then worries about what his colleagues will think of it. The head of the research team at the University of Leamington Spa wakes up in a sweat after dreaming that the Hilversum Medical School has been working on a similar hiccup project and has come to the opposite conclusion. Measuring our happiness must be torment.
In our house there is a merry breakfast time snap and crackle every day as my wife and I pop our blister packs of pills. After that we take our daily exercise crawling round the floor in search of the ones that have got away. I marvel at the distances some pills can achieve. Could this become an Olympic event? I reckon I’m in contention for at least a bronze in the Men’s Flipping the Statin. Those other two-tone capsules can also manage a good rolling distance, but at least they are easy to find.
Medicines are important to us, so the report in yesterday’s Telegraph that licensing problems have led to certain over-the counter pharmaceutical products being in short supply certainly hit home. The shortage of Woodward’s Gripe Water is no problem to us, although I have fond memories of the taste and, now I come to think about it, I could just fancy a quick one before lunch.
We also know about the shortage of Paramol. My wife never wants to be more than 12ft away from a Paramol tablet, so this has been a major crisis for us. These days, whenever we leave London I’m sent out to roam the chemists on a quest for a dealer. I sidle up to the pharmacy counter, looking shifty, and mutter, out of the side of my mouth: “Got any Paramol?”
I see in yesterday’s report that there’s also a shortage of the chewy indigestion tablet Remegel. I’d hate to be around when my wife hears about this. And I certainly wouldn’t want to be conducting a survey about happiness.
It’s boom time for the upright mirth production industry. Every other person nowadays seems to be a stand-up comedian. They probably outnumber IT consultants, personal fitness trainers and psychotherapists. If you laid all the stand-up comedians end-to-end they would stretch from the Land’s End Comedy Store to the John o’ Groats Laughter Cellar. And if you took a week’s output of comedy one-liners and strung them all together they would make a book as long as Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy. At least, that’s what my research shows.