The Good Life, Affluence and Self-Reported Happiness: Introducing the Good Life Index and Debunking Two Popular Myths

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal 12 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Leonie STECKERMEIER, Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg, Germany
Jan DELHEY, Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg, Germany
This paper examines the highly controversial question: in the richer parts of the world, is people’s quality of life (QOL) enhanced by national prosperity? It is based on a novel concept, the ‘elements of the good life’, as sketched out by Skidelsky and Skidelsky in 2013. This new concept focuses on life results in seven domains: health, security, friendship, respect, leisure, personality, and harmony with nature. Our article refines the original concept and suggests, for the first time, a way to measure the well-being of individuals, based upon our development of the ‘good life’ approach in a lean and effective way. The resulting Good Life Index enables us to not only measure how well life is going, but also to test two key assumptions Skidelsky and Skidelsky (2013) hold about the relationship between affluence, the good life, and self-reported happiness. These assumptions are that affluence is, at best, unrelated to the good life and, at worst, is harmful, and that people report being happy mostly for other reasons than the ones embodied in the elements of the good life. By analyzing data for 34 European countries from the most recent European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) within a multilevel framework, we can show that both assumptions are wrong: Europeans’ QOL is better in wealthier societies, and they are authentically happy. This falsification, however, does not impair the usefulness of the good life approach as such, which helps to generate new and valuable insights into human well-being.