Well-being and environmental quality: Does pollution affect life satisfaction?



We aimed to explore the effect of ambient air pollution on individual persons’ levels of subjective well-being. Our research question was: to what extent is an individual’s life satisfaction shaped by exposure to PM10?


We used regression models to analyse data on subjective well-being indicators from the last two waves of the European social survey (ESS) and detailed information on local levels of the air pollutant PM10.


An increase in PM10 annual concentrations by 1 μg/m3 was associated with a significant reduction in life satisfaction of .017 points on the ESS 10-point life satisfaction scale.


Our findings suggest that even in cases of relatively low levels of PM10 air pollution (mean annual concentration of 8.3 ± 3.9 μg/m3), in addition to the effects on physical health, exposure negatively affects subjective assessments of well-being.

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Correspondence to Kati Orru.

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Compliance with ethical standards

The study was carried out with the financial support from the Internationalisation of Science Programme grant by Estonian Ministry of Science and Education (Grant No. SSHUH11196T). The authors, Kati Orru, Hans Orru, Marek Maasikmets, Reigo Hendrikson and Mare Ainsaar declare that they have no conflict of interest. All procedures for gathering data from human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards set in the Declaration on Ethics of the International Statistical Institute (ISI, www.isi-web.org/component/content/article/43-about/about/150-ethicsintro). Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.



See Tables 2 and 3.

Table 2 Descriptive statistics of analysed variables
Table 3 Correlations of analysed variables (Pearson’s correlation)

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Orru, K., Orru, H., Maasikmets, M. et al. Well-being and environmental quality: Does pollution affect life satisfaction?. Qual Life Res 25, 699–705 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11136-015-1104-6

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  • Life satisfaction
  • Environmental pollution
  • Air quality
  • Subjective health assessment