Professor Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick says his paper documents evidence on psychological health and mental well-being declining in several countries in Europe.
Oswald suggests it is wrong for policymakers to focus on traditional measures of material prosperity because continued economic growth is pointless if people are becoming more distressed and feeling ever more pressurized the wealthier they get.
"Fast cars and fast showers are everywhere in western society, but the data show us plainly that all is not well psychologically," Oswald says in a statement.
Research shows 15-year-olds in Scotland suffer more anxiety and depression than in the 1990s and those young people in turn suffered more than 15-year-olds in the 1980s, Oswald says.
Surveys on mental health in Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium, show evidence over recent decades of steadily worsening psychological distress in the population and a decline in what Oswald calls "emotional prosperity."
Approximately 15 percent of British people suffer from at least one mental disorder, Oswald says. He says in political debate the criterion of emotional prosperity should replace the increasingly outdated idea of aiming for further material prosperity and its demands of ever-increasing intensification of work.
The paper is scheduled to be published in the December issue of the British Journal of Industrial Relations.