The Impact of Economic Crisis on Happiness

Abstract

There is a common belief that economic crisis will lead to a decrease in subjective wellbeing. Previous studies indicate that income is correlated with happiness and unemployment with unhappiness. The relationship between increased income and happiness is well documented while the impact of decreased income has been less explored. The aim of this paper is to study how the economic downfall in Iceland, followed by reduced income and increased unemployment, affects happiness as well as to explore which groups are most vulnerable to changes in happiness and which are most resilient. The study is a longitudinal, nationally representative postal survey which assessed 5,918 individual’s aged 18–79. A total of 4,092 (77.3%) answered again in 2009. The relationship between economic factors and happiness was explored using multiple linear regression to find out how much they explain of the happiness variance and the changes in happiness, together with demographic factors, health and social relationships. Results indicate that income and unemployment did not predict happiness but financial difficulties did. A decrease in happiness was detected after the collapse. The change in happiness from 2007 to 2009 was normally distributed, 40% had the same score in both years and an equal number increased as decreased. The explored factors did not explain the changes in happiness. The economic crisis had a limited affect on happiness. Those with financial difficulties were hardest hit. Changes in happiness need to be studied further since they are not well explained by the factors which influence cross-sectional levels of happiness.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by a grant from “The Icelandic Research Fund for Graduate Students”. I would like to thank Felicia Huppert for her inspiration, editorial comments and supervision and Stefan H. Jonsson, Daniel Olason and Kai Ruggeri for statistical advice and editorial comments.

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Correspondence to Dora Gudrun Gudmundsdottir.

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The study is based on data collection approved by the Icelandic Ethical Committee (Approval: 07-081-V1, and 09-094).

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Gudmundsdottir, D.G. The Impact of Economic Crisis on Happiness. Soc Indic Res 110, 1083–1101 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-011-9973-8

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Keywords

  • Happiness
  • Subjective wellbeing
  • Economic crises
  • Income
  • Unemployment