Chapter 5: Happiness in Europe

The purpose of this chapter is to use data from the European Social Survey 2010 to develop a variance component model for happiness with explanatory variables at the individual level as well as the country level, and to interpret the findings.


A common conclusion in quality of life research is that subjective well-being is only very weakly related to material living conditions (for reviews, see Arthaud-Day, Marne and Near 2005, Diener and Biswas-Diener 2002). Whereas the weak effects of material living conditions are commonly stressed in quality of life research, the situation is quite different in research on health, including subjectively assessed health. In this field, income, social class and other indicators of material living conditions are generally considered to be very important determinants.

In light of the highly divergent views of the importance of material living conditions to health and happiness, a recent study by Subramanian, Kim and Kawachi (2005) is very interesting. They performed parallel analyses of happiness and self-assessed health in the United States and found that these variables were equally strongly related to income and education. In addition, they found that happiness was much more strongly related to marital status than health. Eikemo and Ringdal (2008) replicated the American study based on data from the European Social Surveys for 2002 and 2004, with parallel findings. In the example, we will restrict the analysis to individual and contextual determinants of happiness. For a better overview of the field of well-being in general, see the Well-being module.

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