Archive for January 4th, 2008

Does increasing happiness foster or sustain the conditions for peace?

Researchers explored that important question by reviewing the survey responses of 52,000 people in 51 countries.

They found several interesting correlations. First, they found that at the individual level self-described happy people tended to have more confidence in the government and armed forces, a greater emphasis on postmaterialist values, stronger support for democracy, less intolerance of immigrants and racial groups, and a greater willingness to fight for one’s country. For example, researchers say participatory governments require individuals to trust that their fellow citizens will not abuse civil and political liberties that are a part. Thus, “by facilitating trust and cooperation, subjective well-being may have important implications for tolerance, as well as support for democracy and individual freedom.”

But these positive attitudes can be greatly affected by the conditions at the national level. Thus, the level of the GNP, violence, inequality, and a country’s overall well-being levels could dampen or diminish those attitudes at the personal level. For example, research suggests that when people perceive a threat or experience fear and anger, they are more likely to endorse punitive measures and are less politically tolerant.

The researchers (Ed Diener and William Tov) bring this all together by saying that while improving individual happiness looks to be a critical foundation for the building of lasting peace in a country, improving the political and economic foundations within a nation must be present as well.

Source: Subjective Well-Being and Peace by Ed Diener and William Tov, Journal of Social Issues 63 (2), 421–440.

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