Survey reveals impact of Greek economic crisis on happiness

14 Dec 16

Greeks are unhappier with their lives than citizens in a host of post-communist and less developed nations across Europe and central Asia, according to a survey.

In its report, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development found that the severe economic crisis in Greece had had a big impact on happiness in the country, with just over 20% of people reporting they are satisfied with their lives.

“92% of Greek households report having been affected by the economic crisis between 2010 and 2016,” the report, which was published earlier this week, said.

“It is probably a result of this dramatic situation that Greece reports among the lowest levels of life satisfaction.”

Greece scored lower than Armenia, Moldova, Ukraine in terms of life satisfaction. In the latter two, people thought that life was worse than it was in 2006.

The only other countries to record a decline in overall life satisfaction in the last 10 years were Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Turkey, and support for democracy and open markets in these countries was also faltering.

Russia had one of the highest preferences for more authoritarianism (36%) and a return to a government-controlled economy, rather than one led by market forces (46%).

These ex-soviet states are some of the only nations included in the survey yet to close the “happiness gap” with their western counterparts, which others have managed to bridge since  2010.

The happiest countries in the region were in central Asia, central Europe and the Baltics. Life satisfaction was higher in Uzbekistan than in any other country, followed by Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Estonia, Slovenia and Kazakhstan.

Altogether, the EBRD said the survey results suggested that the post-communist countries covered had “finally” achieved “happiness convergence” with their western counterparts.

This is because life satisfaction in European countries like Germany and Italy is falling, at the same time as it is increasing in what the EBRD dubbed the “transition region”, where nations are moving from a planned economy to open market democracies.

In some countries – namely Turkey and those in central Europe, the Baltic states – satisfaction with the quality and efficiency of public services was even higher than in Germany and Italy.

On average, satisfaction with public services has increased across the whole region, with education receiving the most favourable ratings, followed by requests for official documents.

Civil courts and unemployment benefits on the other hand were the services respondents were least satisfied with. In terms of public utilities, the majority of countries reported being unsatisfied with local roads.

Corruption also remains a challenge in many of the countries studied, the EBRD found, with bribes paid to health workers, traffic police or other public officials still being high.

This impacts happiness, the survey stressed. “In particular, people who believe that unofficial payments or gifts are necessary for public services to run efficiently are four percentage points less likely to be satisfied with their lives.”

Results also showed that respondents who are worried about corruption are less likely to trust others and be optimistic about the future.

It found that while people in the region tended to trust their police, armed forces, president or prime minister and religious institutions, only around two fifths had confidence in their government. Trust in institutions has fallen “considerably” since 2010, the report added. 

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