Exploring the Myth of Unhappiness in Former Communist Countries: The Roles of the Sex Gap in Life Expectancy and the Marital Status Composition
National average happiness and the difference in happiness between women and men are positively correlated in European countries. This study focuses on this cross-country relationship and tests (1) whether, after controlling for socio-economic factors, the correlation is attributed to their direct relationship, or, alternatively, explained by the sex difference in life expectancy, and (2) whether the correlation is not only exogenously explained but also endogenously generated by the sex difference in life expectancy. Performing regression analyses, this study shows that the correlation between happiness and its sex difference is spurious, and that the sex difference in life expectancy generates this correlation and accounts for about one-third of the correlation. A decline in happiness influences men’s mortality more than women’s, and widens the life expectancy gap between women and men. This in turn raises the widowhood ratio among women, lowers women’s average happiness, and reduces the happiness gap between women and men. The results obtained in this study points to the importance of controlling for the demographic composition of the population when we use aggregate happiness measures as national happiness indicators.
KeywordsSubjective well-being Happiness Life expectancy Sex difference East–West divide
I wish to thank the anonymous referees for helpful comments, the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research for providing research facilities, and the Miyata Research Fund of Meikai University for financial support. Part of this research was conducted while I was a visiting researcher at the MPIDR. Any remaining errors are my own.