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Alternative Recipes for Life Satisfaction: Evidence from Five World Regions

Referierte Aufsätze Web of Science

Bruce Headey, Gisela Trommsdorff, Gert G. Wagner

In: Applied Research in Quality of Life 17 (2022), 2, S. 763-794


In most cross-national research on Life Satisfaction (LS) an implicit assumption appears to be that the correlates of LS are the same the world over; ‘one size fits all’. Using data from the World Values Survey (1999–2014), we question this assumption by assessing the effects of differing personal values/life priorities on LS in five world regions: the West, Latin America, the Asian-Confucian region, ex-Communist Eastern Europe, and the Communist countries of China and Vietnam. We indicate that differing values - traditional family values, friendship and leisure values, materialistic values, political values, prosocial and environmental values, and religious values – are endorsed to varying degrees in different parts of the world, and vary in whether they have positive or negative effects on LS. Personal values provide the basis for alternative ‘recipes’ affecting LS. By ‘recipes’ we mean linked set of values, attitudes, behavioural choices and domain satisfactions that have a positive or negative effect on LS. We estimate structural equation models which indicate that differing values-based recipes help to account for large, unexpected differences between mean levels of LS in the five world regions, compared with the levels ‘predicted’ by GDP per capita. In particular, the high priority given to traditional family and religious recipes in Latin America helps to account for unexpectedly high LS in that region. Deficits in prosocial attitudes and behaviours partly account for low LS in ex-Communist Eastern Europe.

JEL-Classification: D69;I31;Z13
Keywords: Life satisfaction (LS), Personal values, Recipes affecting LS, Structural equation models, World values survey