Irish once again report high level of ‘life satisfaction’

Tendency to accentuate positive queried

“Irish people have an upward bias in their responses [and] so always profess higher satisfaction and well-being than other nations. Whether this reflects the reality is another issue,” says Prof Richard Layte of the ESRI. Photograph: Davd Sleator

It has been one of the paradoxes of the economic collapse that Irish people continue to report high levels of life satisfaction at odds with the narrative of doom and gloom.

The latest international survey to confirm Irish people are generally happy with their lot is the OECD’s Better Life Index.

It records a life satisfaction measure of seven out of 10, higher than the OECD average of 6.6, than our German paymasters (6.7) and our British neighbours (6.8), and only just below that of highest-scoring Australia (7.2). The index measures income levels, education, employment and health, among other variables. Some 84 per cent of Irish people reported having more positive than negative experiences on a given day.


Accentuate the positive
ESRI research professor Richard Layte said Ireland always seemed to score well on community, housing and civic engagement, to a lesser extent on health, but less well on education, jobs and income. He said Irish people's tendencies to accentuate the positive might obscure their true feelings.

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“Ireland often does better on dimensions with more subjective assessment, as Irish people have an upward bias in their responses [and] so always profess higher satisfaction and well-being than other nations. Whether this reflects the reality is another issue.”

The quality of life index became politicised in 2010 when British prime minister David Cameron said Gross National Product was too crude a measure of national well-being because it excluded important things such as environment, family status, feelings of security and community involvement.

First results from the UK's Office for National Statistics' measure of life satisfaction were published last year. It found the happiest people lived in the far north of Scotland and the unhappiest in post-industrial communities such as south Wales and the west Midlands.


Conference
There is no Irish well-being index, but researchers at NUI Galway and in think-tank Tasc hope to find a way of developing one, starting with a conference in the Whitaker Institute in Galway on Thursday.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times