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Mental Health Care and Average Happiness: Strong Effect in Developed Nations


Mental disorder is a main cause of unhappiness in modern society and investment in mental health care is therefore likely to add to average happiness. This prediction was checked in a comparison of 143 nations around 2005. Absolute investment in mental health care was measured using the per capita number of psychiatrists and psychologists working in mental health care. Relative investment was measured using the share of mental health care in the total health budget. Average happiness in nations was measured with responses to survey questions about life-satisfaction. Average happiness appeared to be higher in countries that invest more in mental health care, both absolutely and relative to investment in somatic medicine. A data split by level of development shows that this difference exists only among developed nations. Among these nations the link between mental health care and happiness is quite strong, both in an absolute sense and compared to other known societal determinants of happiness. The correlation between happiness and share of mental health care in the total health budget is twice as strong as the correlation between happiness and size of the health budget. A causal effect is likely, but cannot be proved in this cross-sectional analysis.

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Correspondence to Giorgio Touburg.



See Table 4

Table 4 Variables used in the cross-national analysis and their descriptive statistics

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Touburg, G., Veenhoven, R. Mental Health Care and Average Happiness: Strong Effect in Developed Nations. Adm Policy Ment Health 42, 394–404 (2015).

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  • Subjective well-being
  • Happiness
  • Cross-national
  • Public health
  • Mental health care