What Are the Factors Influencing Subjective Life Satisfaction? A Case Study of Germany Using the World Value Survey

Case Study, 2019

22 Pages, Grade: 1.3



Life satisfaction is considered to be a primary goal of an individual and of a welfare-state. This goal was first proposed by Jeremy Bentham in 1789 with his theory of Utilitarianism which means ‘greater happiness for a greater number’. Bentham believed that a state should aim to maximize the level of satisfaction of its citizens because satisfaction is a result of various aspects such as good economic system, social welfare, peace, education etc. This theory has been a very influential one and is still relevant today. Countries place a great value in making its citizens happy and satisfied. Although it has not been employed everywhere, and although social and economic issues exists, places such as Denmark, Finland, Norway have achieved a great success in this matter and rank among the happiest countries. Social, Political, Environmental and other policies of these countries have been envied by others. In Nordic countries plus few European countries, social trust is high, inequality is low, economic development is high, environmental standards are high, people enjoy free education and other index are at finest levels. This, combined, has led to life satisfaction and happiness of the people. With this, it can be concluded that life satisfaction is a multi-dimensional concept and is a result of multiple factors mentioned above. It is also affected by various socio- economic and biological factors. A dramatic change in economic well-being will influence the level. So, it is important to keep these factors in its best form. Hence, interest of researchers to study life satisfaction is obvious and this has led to rich publications around this topic. Based on its nature that it is correlated with diverse factors, studies has been done either relating life satisfaction with individual facts or all factors that might have association with it has been studied. This includes the association with financial success, education, health status, socio-economic status, environment, gender, age, cultural backgrounds and many more. Furthermore, various local, national and international level studies have been carried out frequently. OECD’s ‘Better Life Index’ focuses among others on personal satisfaction level, World Value Survey includes domains related to it and so does the Human Development index. Fulfilling one’s goal in life and at the same time, enjoying the privilege of better health, better environment, access to good education, human rights, freedom, good governance and other aspects lead to a happy and satisfied life. Still, national and regional differences exist and these differences has been a major driver of various other studies in the topic. Hence, it would not be wrong to say that ‘Life satisfaction’ has been a term that still has lots of scope of research although it has been studied intensively in global scale.

This paper will analyse the experiences in Germany from 2010 to 2014 with the data collected through random sampling method for World Value Survey. Due to the limited scope of this paper, I include the below mentioned variables to analyse this in German case. In the first part, I will do literature review of the topic followed by detailed information about data and methodology. After running the linear regression model, I will interpret the results generated and finally move to discussion/conclusion.

Literature Review

Literature in subjective well-being stretches to large number of factors that potentially have association with it. The studies have also been diverse in nature ranging from local to global level and include various socio-economical, biological, environmental, behavioural and technological aspect. Life satisfaction is a two/multiple-way relationship, meaning, a good health might be correlated with happy life and happy life on the other hand can lead to good health (Kavaliauskiene et al 2017). Review of all aspects studied in association with subjective well-being and life satisfaction is beyond the scope of this study. However, the variables included, satisfaction with financial situation, education level etc. has been extensively studied in combination of other factors, gender and age as well. The included variables can yet be further strengthened to analyse deeper information. For example, higher education is associated with more life satisfaction (Del et al, 2011) but it can only be true only if it also yield a better status afterwards (Veenhoven, 1996). Higher education mostly leads to higher income. Cheung and Lucas (2015) found that people with more income than average reported higher life satisfaction but this varies with age. Midlife individuals had higher satisfaction than their young or old counterparts when only financial status was observed. It gives another proposition about the role of age in self-reported satisfaction which tends to reverse the trend. Realo & Dobewall (2011) found older and younger people are more satisfied than middle-aged people in a cross-country comparison in Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Sweden. This might be because middle-aged people face multiple pressures to take care of family including children and parents, have career pressure and other responsibilities according to British Annual Population Survey (ONS) (2018). Another study by Deaton et al (2015) reports that life satisfaction grew with age in English-speaking countries whereas it decreased in low and middle income countries. This study shows a clear pattern of reduction of satisfaction with income with sub-Saharan African countries having lowest level of life satisfaction followed by Latin America and Eastern Europe. Here, the correlation with income, social security system and health can be seen clearly. Within the elderlies, females and males tend to include different domains, with females highlighting relationship with children, social- welfare, partnerships etc. as factors that make them satisfied whereas men tend to focus more on financial situation and partnership (Schafer et al, 2013) Similar findings about gender differences on satisfaction perception were also reported by Oshio (2012) in Japan where the importance of social relations was higher for women whereas financial stability along with other factors for men. This tendency of gender differences stretched to younger and middle- aged women as well. Humpert (2013) found that women in Germany value civic engagement and sport as factors that satisfy them whereas men focused on leisure time activities and hobbies. Joshanloo (2018) found differential tendencies in male and female regarding the domains based on a study done in 150 countries including about one million individuals. The association of life-satisfaction with financial satisfaction and stress has been intensely studied as well. Evidence is unanimous that financial stress reduces satisfaction (Tariq, 2012) (Lantz et al, 2005) and higher financial satisfaction is associated with higher life satisfaction. A 50 year study in Brazil showed that life satisfaction went hand in hand with financial growth and satisfaction (Campara et al,2017) Similar results were mentioned in the findings by Ngamaba & Soni (2017) who studied the phenomenon across different religious groups using World Value Survey with primary focus on religious belief but also on financial status. The World Value Survey data study by Lee et al (2019) comparing US and South Korea found that financial satisfaction significantly affected life satisfaction in both countries. Same phenomenon was also confirmed with taking the sample data from World Values Survey from 1981-2008 for UK where especially the elderly with good financial situation were happier than other groups (Hayes, 2014) Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Canada topped the list of most satisfied in financial terms.

There is a gap in literature regarding the association between political stance and life satisfaction. Carroll (2007) found that conservatives are happier than liberals but the definition of conservatives varies widely and once going deeper about why it is so, conservatives tend to simplify things and tend to care less about social inequalities and stick to status-quo (Schlenker, 2011). According to the same report, conservatives are fearful and vulnerable, which can be regarded as negative tendencies, but still, 61% conservatives in the US reported as being very satisfied whereas only 47% liberals thought so (Caroll, 2007). Hence, the available data on life-satisfaction and political stance does not give a clear picture because being satisfied or unsatisfied is limited to its scope, a deeper analysis is required. There is a room further analysis and self-reported studies require other personal traits to be studied as well.

Germany experienced a significant growth of employment level in the last 15 years. Despite the economic crisis of 2008, life satisfaction has risen (Enste, 2014) and despite having a large number of people with some form of mental health issues (Jacobi et al, 2004), the overall satisfaction level shows a good picture with over half of the survey participants choosing the upper tier of satisfaction level. Study by Gray (2014) showed a strong satisfaction level with financial situation in Germany as a whole with western Germany scoring higher than eastern part, which can be attributed to lower level of economic development in the former communist East Germany. National Panel Data survey shows gender differences in satisfaction and this is led by one factor, strong civic engagement, by mostly married German women with children (Meier & Stutzer, 2008) (Humpert, 2013)

Data Methodology and Measurement

The data for this research was taken from World Value Survey statistics about Germany from 2010-2014. World Value Survey is an international network of social scientists whose primary aim is to study the changing values and their potential impact on society and life of people. Started in 1981, the research designs are of high quality and up to date, it consists of data surveyed in almost 100 countries. (WVS, 2019) Germany was chosen due to its unique economical and societal development recently and due to my particular interest in the country. The World Value Survey was conducted by sending questionnaire to a random sample of population.

The sample size was 2046 which is statistically appropriate for the total population of approximately 82 Million with East and West Germany combined. 24 items were removed as 3 or more values were missing. Participants were directed to fill out the questionnaire sent by post which included a set of about 260 questions categorized in different sections. For this research, six variables were taken as independent variables, namely 'satisfaction with financial situation', 'education level attained', 'health status', 'political stance', 'age group' and 'gender' to see their association with the dependent variable 'life satisfaction'. The dependent variable was subjective life satisfaction which was measured on a likert-scale of 1-10, 1 being 'Very Unhappy' and 10 being 'Very Happy' (Accordingly coded). Same measurement was used for 'Satisfaction with Financial Situation' with 10 being fully satisfied and 1 being fully unsatisfied(Accordingly Coded). Political Stance was also measured in Likert-scale of 1-10, 1 being 'Left' and 10 being 'Right' wing(Accordingly Coded). Age group was in three group likert- scale, 'Up to 29' (Coded as 1), '30-49' (2) and '50 and more' (3). Education level was grouped into nine likert-scale measure, ‘No formal education’(1), 'Incomplete primary school'(2), 'Complete primary school'(3), ‘incomplete secondary school: technical/ vocational type’(4), ‘incomplete secondary school: university preparatory type’(5), 'complete secondary school: technical/vocational type'(6), 'complete secondary school: university preparatory type'(7), ‘Some university level education: without degree’(8) and 'University level education, with degree'(9). Gender was measured as 'male' and 'female'. I used as dummy variables, 1 as female, otherwise 0. Health status was measured as 'Poor'(1), 'Fair'(2), 'Good'(3), and 'Very Good'(4). Coding was done from SPSS.


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What Are the Factors Influencing Subjective Life Satisfaction? A Case Study of Germany Using the World Value Survey
University College Cork  (School of Business)
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Life Satisfaction in Germany, Life Satisfaction, German Life Satisfaction, World Value Survey, World Value Survey Germany, Subjective Life Satisfaction, Assessment of Life Satisfaction
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Bikal Dhungel (Author), 2019, What Are the Factors Influencing Subjective Life Satisfaction? A Case Study of Germany Using the World Value Survey, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/492347


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