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Determinants of subjective well-being in representative samples of nations

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Publication details

JournalEuropean Journal of Public Health
DateE-pub ahead of print - 15 Jul 2016
DatePublished (current) - 1 Apr 2017
Issue number2
Number of pages6
Pages (from-to)377-382
Early online date15/07/16
Original languageEnglish


Background: Maximising the happiness and life satisfaction [i.e. subjective well-being (SWB)] of citizens is a fundamental goal of international governmental organizations’ policies. In order to decide what policies should be pursued in order to improve SWB there is a need to identify what the key drivers of SWB are. However, to date most studies have been conducted in unrepresentative samples of largely ‘developed’ nations. Methods: Data from the latest World Value Survey (2010–14) and gathered 85 070 respondents from 59 countries (Age 16–99 years, Mean = 42, SD = 16.54; 52.29% females) were pooled for the analysis. A cross-sectional multilevel random effects model was performed where respondents were nested by country. Results: The average levels of SWB varied across countries and geographical regions. Among the lowest 10 SWB countries are nations from: Eastern Europe and Former Soviet Union and Middle East and North Africa. Factors driving SWB include state of health, financial satisfaction, freedom of choice, GDP per capita, income scale, importance of friends, leisure, being females, weekly religious attendance, unemployment and income inequality. Nevertheless, according to Cohen’s rules of thumb, most of these factors have ‘small’ effect sizes. Thus, the main factors that possibly will improve the SWB of people across the globe are: state of health, household’s financial satisfaction and freedom of choice. Conclusions: To maximize the well-being of the population, policy makers may focus on health status, household’s financial satisfaction and emancipative values. The levels of prosperity and political stability appear to positively improve the SWB of people.

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© The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Public Health Association. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details

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