Irish Journal of Medical Science

, Volume 182, Issue 1, pp 113–119 | Cite as

When Irish eyes are smiling: income and happiness in Ireland, 2003–2009

  • A. M. DohertyEmail author
  • B. D. Kelly
Original Article



Ireland’s economic fortunes rose and fell in dramatic fashion between 2000 and 2010, as an unprecedented boom was followed by economic crisis.


We hypothesised that (a) these dramatic changes in economic circumstances did not substantially change self-rated happiness in Ireland, but (b) social and psychological correlates of happiness may have changed, both within Ireland and compared to other European countries.


We studied data from the European Social Survey relating to self-rated happiness and social and psychological correlates of happiness in Ireland in 2003 (n = 2,046), 2005 (n = 2,274), 2007 (n = 1,794) and 2009 (n = 1,764).


There was a slight decline in happiness between 2005 and 2009, as mean self-rated happiness score changed from 7.94 (2005) to 7.55 (2009) (0: “extremely unhappy”; 10: “extremely happy”). Linear regression models accounted for only 16.6–20.2 % of inter-individual variation in happiness at each time-point. Satisfaction with health had the strongest association with happiness in 2003, 2005 and 2007. Satisfaction with income, relative to other variables, increased over time and in 2009 had the strongest association with happiness.


Overall, despite dramatic changes in economic circumstances and a slight decline in happiness, the Irish continued an historic tradition of rating ourselves as generally very happy.


Happiness Health Psychology Ireland Gross domestic product Economic recession Trust Religiosity Democracy 



This paper uses data from the European Social Survey (ESS), an academically-driven social survey designed to chart and explain the interaction between Europe’s changing institutions and the attitudes, beliefs and behaviour patterns of its diverse populations. It is funded via the European Commission’s 5th and 6th Framework Programmes, the European Science Foundation and national funding bodies in each country. The project is directed by a Central Co-ordinating Team led by Roger Jowell at the Centre for Comparative Social Surveys, City University, London. We are grateful to the editors and peer-reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Adult PsychiatryUniversity College Dublin, Mater Misericordiae University HospitalDublin 7Ireland

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