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The Happiness of Olympic Athletes

As we know, well-being economics has been having a big influence on policy-making in this country and subjective surveys are being increasingly used by our government to guide its decisions.

Yesterday, America's cup winner Peter Burling missed the Gold. His co-sailor, Blair Tuke, said "On the Olympic podium in London, we saw people not enjoying the silver medals or being disappointed ... we said 'let's not be those people, if that ever happens', so we'll hold our heads high and enjoy this one."

This phenomenon of unhappy silver medalists has long been recognized, including by Scientific American Magazine. Researchers took video footage of the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. Specifically, they recorded the medal ceremonies, as well as footage from the athletic competitions immediately following announcements of the winners. The happiness of the medalists was rated on a 10-point scale, with 1 being “agony” and 10 being “ecstasy.” On average, silver medalists scored a 4.8, and bronze medalists a 7.1 ... Statistical analyses proved that both immediately after winning, as well as later at the medal ceremony, bronze medalists were visibly happier than the silver medalists.

Another study at the 2004 Athens Olympics found that none of the silver medalists smiled immediately after their match ended. More interestingly, the facial expressions that were recorded among silver medal winners ranged from sadness (43%) to contempt (14%) to nothing (29%). These results seem to have emerged at the Tokyo Olympics as well. Take a look at the facial expressions yourself.



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