Does economic growth contribute to happiness? With its research project on the well-being of the population, the University of Toronto Felix Cheung hope to find out.
An assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Cheung calls the question of economic happiness one of the oldest debates in his field.
He cites, as an example, previous research he did on Hong Kong that found relatively low levels of life satisfaction despite high GDP per capita and long life expectancy – two common measures of well-being. be used by governments. And he notes that the same may be increasingly true in Canada after nearly two years of battling COVID-19.
“At a minimum, our well-being is not improving,” he says. “This is enough to consider: is our policy aligned with what Canadians want in life? “
Cheung also wishes to explore how governments can “can actually spend our economic growth to buy happiness,” noting that it is not so much economic prosperity as how it is distributed that may be most important.
“One of the agreements behind the rallying cry for police funding, I think, calls on us as a community to rethink how we spend government spending to promote the collective well-being of all.”
Cheung is one of 33 faculty members at the University of Toronto to receive a new or renewed Canada Research Chair in the last round of nominations announced on Wednesday (see full list below). The program supports exceptional work in a wide variety of fields. At the University of Toronto, that includes everything from marine epidemiology and precision medicine to research into sustainable bioproducts.
At the same time, the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) – in collaboration with the CRC program – announced its support for Cheung and another researcher at the University of Toronto through his program. John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF), which helps universities pay for labs and equipment. The second researcher, Ji young Youn, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics at Temerty Medical School and a Scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children.
Professor Shaf Keshavjee from the University Health Network and the Faculty of Medicine of Temerty, also received $ 24 million in support through the New Frontiers in Research Fund for its project, The Next Frontier in Transplantation: Ex vivo Strategies to Repair and Reconstruct organs.
“I would like to congratulate all the researchers at the University of Toronto who have been selected for a new chair or whose chair has been renewed, as well as those who have received funding from the John R. Evans Leaders Fund and the New Frontiers in Research Fund. said Lea Cowen, vice-president, research and innovation, and strategic initiatives.
“The federal government’s continued support for important work through Canada Research Chairs and other programs plays a key role in enabling our researchers to advance knowledge and foster innovation in a wide variety of ways. of domains.
The CRC program, established in 2000, invests up to $ 295 million per year to recruit and retain the best minds in Canada. It supports research in engineering, natural sciences, health sciences, humanities and social sciences.
In Cheung’s case, he plans to use level two funding from the Canada Research Chair to study the determinants, consequences and political relevance of population well-being using a multidisciplinary approach. He plans to explore three lines of research: What contributes to the well-being of the population and what can be done to create a more satisfying life for a given population? What are the desirable consequences of a happier society? And, finally, does the public support the idea of using well-being as a major political indicator?
He says his work was inspired by observations he made while living in Hong Kong, where he noted that a high GDP per capita and a long life expectancy didn’t seem to make people happy.
“I could see that people were going through their lives without necessarily having a purpose,” he says. “This observation was later confirmed by my own data analysis.”
In fact, he discovered that the inhabitants of the region lived the least satisfying life in the developed world. “Hong Kong is a warning to the rest of the world,” he said. “A long and prosperous life is not necessarily a good life.”
Cheung joined the U of T in July 2020 and continued to research the topic. “There are so many world-class experts from different disciplines here,” he says. “I take advantage of it a lot because [the concept of] well-being is so multifaceted.
His proposal for the Canada Research Chairs Program extends not only to Ontario, but across the country. He adds that the program’s support will allow it to take the first step towards its long-term goal: to reinvent the way we measure societal progress.
“We need buy-in from different sectors – the public, government, business and non-governmental organizations,” he said. “This award is this initial membership that gives me hope that it is doable.”
He hopes his research can be used to measure well-being and its distribution across age groups, gender, sexual orientation, as well as racial and ethnic groups.
“Only if we measure it can we make other decisions about how we want to allocate resources,” says Cheung, adding that such research can help identify populations for which current policies do not. do not increase happiness.
“Nothing prevents the well-being of the population from becoming a major political indicator over the next century, as it reflects equality in our community which is currently not taken into account by existing political indicators. ”
Here are the new and renewed Canada Research Chairs at the University of Toronto:
New Canada Research Chairs
- Benjamin blencowe from the Donnelly Center for Cellular and Biomedical Research at Temerty School of Medicine, level one in RNA Biology and Genomics
- David Burnes of the Faculty of Social Work Factor-Inwentash, level two in prevention of elder abuse
- Felix Cheung of the Department of Psychology of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, level two in well-being of the population
- Lihi Eder from the Department of Medicine at Temerty School of Medicine and Women’s College Hospital, level two in inflammatory rheumatic disease
- Anna heath of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and the Hospital for Sick Children, level two in the design of statistical trials
- Omar F. Khan from the Institute of Biomedical Engineering of the Faculty of Applied Sciences and Engineering, level two in nucleic acid therapy
- Thomas kislinger from the Department of Medical Biophysics of the Faculty of Medicine of Temerty and the University Health Network, level one in precision cancer medicine
- Heather maclean of the Department of Civil and Mineral Engineering of the Faculty of Applied Sciences and Engineering, level one in evaluation of sustainable systems and technologies
- Sonya macparland from the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology of the Faculty of Medicine of Temerty and the University Health Network, level two in hepatic immunobiology
- Kristin musselman from the physiotherapy department of the Faculty of Medicine of Temerty, level two in multi-morbidity and complex rehabilitation
- Daniel I. Posen from the Department of Civil and Mineral Engineering of the Faculty of Applied Sciences and Engineering, level two in system-wide environmental impacts of energy and transportation technologies
- Milica Radish from the Institute of Biomedical Engineering of the Faculty of Applied Sciences and Engineering, level one in organ-on-chip engineering
- Chao wang from the Department of Immunology, Temerty School of Medicine and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center, level two in Immunometabolism in Neuroinflammation
- Tania Watts from the Department of Immunology of the Faculty of Medicine of Temerty, level 1 in anti-viral immunity
- Ning yan of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry of the Faculty of Applied Sciences and Engineering, level one in sustainable bioproducts
- Ji-young youn from the Department of Molecular Genetics at Temerty School of Medicine and the Hospital for Sick Children, Level Two in Proteomics of Membrane-less Organelles
Renewed Canada Research Chairs
- Ana Andreazza from the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology of the Faculty of Medicine of Temerty, Level Two in Molecular Pharmacology and Mood Disorders
- Daniel Bender from the Department of Historical and Cultural Studies, U of T Scarborough, Level One in Food and Culture
- Robert bonin from the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, level two in sensory plasticity
- Brian connelly from the Department of Management at U of T Scarborough, Level Two in Integrative Personality Perspectives
- Shelley craig of the Faculty of Social Work Factor-Inwentash, level two in sexual and minority youth
- Daniel De Carvalho from the Department of Medical Biophysics of the Faculty of Medicine of Temerty and the University Health Network, level two in cancer epigenetics and epigenetic therapy
- Elizabeth edwards of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry of the Faculty of Applied Sciences and Engineering, level one in anaerobic biotechnology
- Barbara Fall on of the Faculty of Social Work Factor-Inwentash, level two in child protection
- Penny gilbert of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering of the Faculty of Applied Sciences and Engineering, level two in endogenous repair
- Martin krkosek from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, level two in marine epidemiology
- Warren lee from the Department of Medicine at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine and Unity Health Toronto, level two in endothelial permeability mechanisms
- Jeffrey Meyer from the Department of Psychiatry of the Faculty of Medicine of Temerty and the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, level one in neurochemistry of major depressive disorder
- Jean Rubinstein from the Department of Biochemistry of Temerty Faculty of Medicine and Hospital for Sick Children, Level One in Electron Cryomicroscopy
- Mikko Taipale from the Donnelly Center for Cellular and Biomedical Research at Temerty School of Medicine, level two in Functional Proteomics and Proteostasis
- Bebhinn treanor from the Department of Biological Sciences, U of T Scarborough, Level Two in Spatial Resolution Biochemistry
- Andrea Tricco from the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and Unity Health Toronto, level two in knowledge synthesis
- Amar Vutha from the physics department of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, level two in precision atomic and molecular physics