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>  News Releases >   2004 >   July

Report finds Scots unhealthy and unhappy

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 07/30/04 • Contact Sue Knapp (603) 646-3661

A new report by Dartmouth College economist David Blanchflower and University of Stirling (UK) economist David Bell reveals that the citizens of Scotland enjoy little satisfaction in life and endure a variety of health problems.

David Blanchflower
David Blanchflower (photo by Amanda Weatherman)

The report titled "The Scots May Be Brave, But They Are Neither Healthy Nor Happy," published by the Scottish Economic Policy Network (Scotecon), analyzed data from several sources, some encompassing 30 years of information, including Labour Force Surveys (quarterly UK labor market reports), Eurobarometer records (the public opinion arm of the European Commission), and the UK Office of National Statistics.

"We usually think that a strong economy leads to an increase in life satisfaction among the population," says Blanchflower, the Bruce V. Rauner Professor at Dartmouth and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. "We found that's not the case in Scotland."

According to the report, the people of Scotland have experienced an improved standard of living in recent decades, and they have a low crime rate compared with the rest of the UK. Plus, since 1999, Scotland has had its own Parliament, which according to the authors, should positively influence the population's attitudes toward happiness and well-being. Despite these factors, the people of Scotland have seen no increase in life satisfaction.

The unemployment rate in the spring of 2002 was slightly higher in Scotland than in the UK as a whole, and in 2000 work days lost to labor disputes were more than five times higher in Scotland than the UK average. Employment is a key determinant in happiness, and unemployment could play a role in unhappiness, says Blanchflower.

"We usually think that a strong economy leads to an increase in life satisfaction among the population. We found that's not the case in Scotland."

- David Blanchflower

The unhealthy condition of Scots also contributes to the unhappiness, asserted the report. Recent data indicated that Scots have high rates of obesity, AIDS, coronary disease, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, multiple sclerosis and asthma, for example. The rate of diabetes among people in Scotland younger than 15 is one of the highest in the world. Furthermore, more people in Scotland below retirement age were inactive (not working) due to sickness or disability than in the UK as a whole.

The report also compared Scotland's happiness with other European countries, and found that Germans, French and Italians are even less satisfied with life, while the Scandinavian population scored remarkably higher in life satisfaction.

"There's a growing body of research that is finding that more income does not necessarily correlate to increased happiness," says Blanchflower, who has published numerous papers on the topic. "We are learning that things like employment, marriage and good health contribute to happiness more directly. This report makes it clear that economic policies should not be divorced from social and health policies."

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