IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/26641.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Is Happiness U-shaped Everywhere? Age and Subjective Well-being in 132 Countries

Author

Listed:
  • David G. Blanchflower

Abstract

I draw systematic comparisons across 109 data files and 132 countries of the relationship between well-being, variously defined, and age. I produce 444 significant country estimates with controls, so these are ceteris paribus effects, and find evidence of a well-being U-shape in age in one hundred and thirty-two countries, including ninety-five developing countries, controlling for education, marital and labor force status. I also frequently find it without any controls at all. There is additional evidence from an array of attitudinal questions that were worded slightly differently than standard happiness or life satisfaction questions such as satisfaction with an individual's financial situation. Averaging across the 257 individual country estimates from developing countries gives an age minimum of 48.2 for well-being and doing the same across the 187 country estimates for advanced countries gives a similar minimum of 47.2. The happiness curve is everywhere.

Suggested Citation

  • David G. Blanchflower, 2020. "Is Happiness U-shaped Everywhere? Age and Subjective Well-being in 132 Countries," NBER Working Papers 26641, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:26641
    Note: LS
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w26641.pdf
    Download Restriction: Access to the full text is generally limited to series subscribers, however if the top level domain of the client browser is in a developing country or transition economy free access is provided. More information about subscriptions and free access is available at http://www.nber.org/wwphelp.html. Free access is also available to older working papers.
    ---><---

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2004. "Well-being over time in Britain and the USA," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1359-1386, July.
    2. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2008. "Is well-being U-shaped over the life cycle?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(8), pages 1733-1749, April.
    3. Schwandt, Hannes, 2016. "Unmet aspirations as an explanation for the age U-shape in wellbeing," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 75-87.
    4. Terence C. Cheng & Nattavudh Powdthavee & Andrew J. Oswald, 2017. "Longitudinal Evidence for a Midlife Nadir in Human Well‐being: Results from Four Data Sets," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 127(599), pages 126-142, February.
    5. Iddisah Sulemana, 2015. "An Empirical Investigation of the Relationship Between Social Capital and Subjective Well-Being in Ghana," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 16(5), pages 1299-1321, October.
    6. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2009. "The U-shape without controls: A response to Glenn," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 69(4), pages 486-488, August.
    7. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-659, May.
    8. David Blanchflower & Andrew Oswald & Sarah Stewart-Brown, 2013. "Is Psychological Well-Being Linked to the Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables?," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 114(3), pages 785-801, December.
    9. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2008. "Hypertension and happiness across nations," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 218-233, March.
    10. Iddisah Sulemana, 2015. "The Effect of Fear of Crime and Crime Victimization on Subjective Well-Being in Africa," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 121(3), pages 849-872, April.
    11. David Blanchflower, 2009. "Where Next For The Uk Economy?1," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 56(1), pages 1-23, February.
    12. Iddisah Sulemana & Louis Doabil & Ebenezer Bugri Anarfo, 2019. "International Remittances and Subjective Wellbeing in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Micro-level Study," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 40(3), pages 524-539, September.
    13. Easterlin, Richard A., 2006. "Life cycle happiness and its sources: Intersections of psychology, economics, and demography," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 463-482, August.
    14. Iddisah Sulemana & Abdul Malik Iddrisu & Jude E. Kyoore, 2017. "A Micro-Level Study of the Relationship Between Experienced Corruption and Subjective Wellbeing in Africa," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 53(1), pages 138-155, January.
    15. López Ulloa, Beatriz Fabiola & Møller, Valerie & Sousa-Poza, Alfonso, 2013. "How does subjective well-being evolve with age? A literature review," FZID Discussion Papers 72-2013, University of Hohenheim, Center for Research on Innovation and Services (FZID).
    16. Terence C. Cheng & Nattavudh Powdthavee & Andrew J. Oswald, 2017. "Longitudinal Evidence for a Midlife Nadir in Human Well‐being: Results from Four Data Sets," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 127(599), pages 126-142, February.
    17. Bookwalter, Jeffrey & Fitch-Fleischmann, Benjamin & Dalenberg, Douglas, 2011. "Understanding life-satisfaction changes in post-apartheid South Africa," MPRA Paper 34579, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    18. Bell, David N.F. & Blanchflower, David G., 2019. "The well-being of the overemployed and the underemployed and the rise in depression in the UK," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 161(C), pages 180-196.
    19. Arthur A. Stone & Joseph E. Schwartz & Joan E. Broderick & Angus Deaton, 2010. "A snapshot of the age distribution of psychological well-being in the United States," Working Papers 1230, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
    20. John F. Helliwell, 2019. "Measuring and Using Happiness to Support Public Policies," NBER Working Papers 26529, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    21. Seppo Laaksonen, 2018. "A Research Note: Happiness by Age is More Complex than U-Shaped," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 19(2), pages 471-482, February.
    22. Jelena Pokimica & Isaac Addai & Baffour Takyi, 2012. "Religion and Subjective Well-Being in Ghana," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 106(1), pages 61-79, March.
    23. Edsel L. Beja, 2018. "The U-shaped relationship between happiness and age: evidence using world values survey data," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 52(4), pages 1817-1829, July.
    24. Shawn Grover & John F. Helliwell, 2019. "How’s Life at Home? New Evidence on Marriage and the Set Point for Happiness," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 20(2), pages 373-390, February.
    25. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2016. "Antidepressants and age: A new form of evidence for U-shaped well-being through life," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 46-58.
    26. repec:pri:cheawb:stone_schwartz_broderick_deaton_snapshot_of_the_age_distribution_of_psych is not listed on IDEAS
    27. Michael A. Shields & Stephen Wheatley Price, 2005. "Exploring the economic and social determinants of psychological well‐being and perceived social support in England," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 168(3), pages 513-537, July.
    28. John F. Helliwell & Max B. Norton & Haifang Huang & Shun Wang, 2018. "Happiness at Different Ages: The Social Context Matters," NBER Working Papers 25121, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    29. Brendan Baird & Richard Lucas & M. Donnellan, 2010. "Life Satisfaction Across the Lifespan: Findings from Two Nationally Representative Panel Studies," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 99(2), pages 183-203, November.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Alan Piper, 2020. "Temps Dip Deeper: Temporary Employment and the Midlife Nadir in Human Well-Being," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 1109, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    2. Blanchflower, David G., 2020. "Unhappiness and age," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 176(C), pages 461-488.
    3. Daniel J. Benjamin & Jakina Debnam Guzman & Marc Fleurbaey & Ori Heffetz & Miles Kimball, 2021. "What Do Happiness Data Mean? Theory and Survey Evidence," GRU Working Paper Series GRU_2021_002, City University of Hong Kong, Department of Economics and Finance, Global Research Unit.
    4. Péter Hudomiet & Michael D. Hurd & Susann Rohwedder, 2020. "The Age Profile of Life-satisfaction After Age 65 in the U.S," NBER Working Papers 28037, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. David G. Blanchflower, 2021. "Is happiness U-shaped everywhere? Age and subjective well-being in 145 countries," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 34(2), pages 575-624, April.
    2. John F. Helliwell & Max B. Norton & Haifang Huang & Shun Wang, 2018. "Happiness at Different Ages: The Social Context Matters," NBER Working Papers 25121, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2017. "Do Humans Suffer a Psychological Low in Midlife? Two Approaches (With and Without Controls) in Seven Data Sets," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 337, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    4. David G. Blanchflower & Carol L. Graham, 2020. "The Mid-Life Dip in Well-Being: Economists (Who Find It) Versus Psychologists (Who Don't)!," NBER Working Papers 26888, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Terence C. Cheng & Nattavudh Powdthavee & Andrew J. Oswald, 2017. "Longitudinal Evidence for a Midlife Nadir in Human Well‐being: Results from Four Data Sets," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 127(599), pages 126-142, February.
    6. Philipp Biermann & Juergen Bitzer & Erkan Goeren, 2019. "The Relationship between Age and Subjective Well-Being: Estimating Within and Between Effects Simultaneously," Working Papers V-421-19, University of Oldenburg, Department of Economics, revised Mar 2019.
    7. Jan van Ours, 2020. "What a drag it is getting old? Mental health and loneliness beyond age 50," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 20-075/V, Tinbergen Institute.
    8. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2016. "Antidepressants and age: A new form of evidence for U-shaped well-being through life," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 46-58.
    9. Seppo Laaksonen, 2018. "A Research Note: Happiness by Age is More Complex than U-Shaped," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 19(2), pages 471-482, February.
    10. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2008. "Is well-being U-shaped over the life cycle?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(8), pages 1733-1749, April.
    11. Iddisah Sulemana, 2015. "The Effect of Fear of Crime and Crime Victimization on Subjective Well-Being in Africa," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 121(3), pages 849-872, April.
    12. Edsel L. Beja, 2018. "The U-shaped relationship between happiness and age: evidence using world values survey data," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 52(4), pages 1817-1829, July.
    13. Frijters, Paul & Beatton, Tony, 2012. "The mystery of the U-shaped relationship between happiness and age," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 525-542.
    14. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald, 2019. "Unhappiness and Pain in Modern America: A Review Essay, and Further Evidence, on Carol Graham's Happiness for All?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 57(2), pages 385-402, June.
    15. Hung-Lin Tao, 2019. "Marriage and Happiness: Evidence from Taiwan," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 20(6), pages 1843-1861, August.
    16. David G. Blanchflower, 2009. "International Evidence on Well-Being," NBER Chapters, in: Measuring the Subjective Well-Being of Nations: National Accounts of Time Use and Well-Being, pages 155-226, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Piper, Alan T., 2015. "Sliding down the U-shape? A dynamic panel investigation of the age-well-being relationship, focusing on young adults," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 143(C), pages 54-61.
    18. María Laura Arrosa & Néstor Gandelman, 2016. "Happiness Decomposition: Female Optimism," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 17(2), pages 731-756, April.
    19. Blanchflower, David G., 2020. "Unhappiness and age," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 176(C), pages 461-488.
    20. Iddisah Sulemana, 2015. "An Empirical Investigation of the Relationship Between Social Capital and Subjective Well-Being in Ghana," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 16(5), pages 1299-1321, October.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:26641. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.