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photo: Veenhoven Professor Ruut Veenhoven
Professor of Sociology at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Closing the border can do more harm than good to national wellbeing.

April 2017
Wellbeing of EU citizens increases on average with free movement within the EU.Response
Average life satisfaction has increased in most member states after joining the EU and this was also the case in the UK. Free movement within the EU is likely to be one of the drivers of this gain in well-being, since freedom typically adds to life-satisfaction, allowing people to find a way of life that fits them best. The rise of average life-satisfaction in EU nations, co-exists with a small decline of life-satisfaction in particular areas and publics in the UK associated with influx of migrants from Eastern Europe.Agree strongly

The UK closing its borders for EU nationals who want to work in the UK after Brexit would harm both UK wellbeing and that of the rest of the EU.Response
An immediate negative effect on life-satisfaction is in the restriction of freedom for EU nationals, and probably also for UK nationals, if similar restrictions are imposed by the EU. In the long-run, the life-satisfaction in Europe will also be negatively affected by reduced economic efficiency and weakened global political power, the indirect effects of which are likely to affect life-satisfaction more than the, possible, direct effects of a strong sense of national identityAgree

Understanding the effect of policy on national wellbeing

March 2017
Despite dozens of years of research, we still know precious little about what policies increase national wellbeing.Response
We can now explain some 80% of the differences in average life-satisfaction across nations, and the data leave no doubt that people live happier in the most modern nations, that is, nations characterized by good governance, economic development, political democracy and rule of law. These macro-social conditions affect micro level life-satisfaction in various ways and a main causal path being that they allow their inhabitants more freedom, which results in a greater share of the population living a life that fits them. Trend analysis over the last 40 years shows that the ongoing process of societal modernization was accompanied by a rise in average happiness. Together with the rising life-expectancy this has resulted in an unprecedented rise in years lived happy. Disagree strongly

In order to find out what raises national wellbeing, we need to have thousands of randomised controlled trials in all major areas of national policy.Response
Randomized trials are useful, but possible only for a limited array of policy interventions at the meso level, not at the macro level of nationsDisagree

Wellbeing Effects of Anonymous Donation of Eggs and Sperm

February 2017
Donating gametes (eggs, sperm) via clinics as anonymous donors is one of the highest return-to-effort things individuals can do to increase overall wellbeing.Response
Donation will mostly add to the happiness of infertile people who want a child, but anonimity will often be detrimental to the happiness of the child. Non-animous donation is to be preferred and is feasibleNeither agree nor disagree

The right of a child to know who their donor was when they turn 18 outweighs (in an overall wellbeing sense) the possibility that this right-to-know leads to a shortage of donors and reduces the number of donor-conceived children.Response
life satisfactionAgree

Organisational structures on workers' wellbeing

January 2017
Employees in more hierarchical organisations have higher levels of wellbeing than those of flatter organisations.Response
life satisfaction Cross-national research has shown that life satisfaction tends to be lower in nations where organizations are more hierarchical. There a few studies within nations on the effect of hierarchy on the life-satisfaction of employees, but related research on autonomy suggests a negative effect as well. To my knowledge this matter has not yet been investigated using a multi-level approachDisagree

Tilting the tax and subsidy mix in favour of more hierarchical organisations (in a revenue neutral manner) would probably improve the wellbeing of employees.Response
Life satisfactionDisagree strongly

Wellbeing and Public Holidays

December 2016
Do you think that populations on average have higher wellbeing during major festive periods like Christmas?Response
Depends on definition of 'well-being'. In some objective senses the statement is almost true by definition (more contact, free time, religion). Subjective well-being in the sense of mood will be a bit higher, but not life-satisfaction. The presence of festive periods in a culture will also add to average life-satisfaction by its indirect effects, e.g. on social capitalAgree

Do you think on balance that average wellbeing would rise if there were more mandatory public holidays in your country?Response
Though people typically enjoy their work, a counterbalance to pressures for ever more work will be helpful, in particular in rich countries like mineAgree