Economists at Trent University in Ontario, Canada, have taken an outside view of fourteen European countries to see whether or not there is a causal link between levels of air pollution and the happiness of citizens of those countries. Byron Lew and Mak Arvin explain that their research is not about the determinants of life satisfaction or air pollution but the primary goal is to focus on the causal relationships between these two factors.
The researchers looked at recorded data on pollution levels in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain and the UK. They analysed per capita carbon dioxide emissions as a proxy for overall pollution given that its main source is the burning of fossil fuels and looked for causality using a statistical formula, the Granger causality test, with citizen happiness as determined from survey data.
The findings do not offer a mechanism by which air pollution levels cause unhappiness and vice versa. However, they do suggest that policy changes that encourage less pollution will have a positive effect.
"A stronger case can be made for further regulation of the state of the environment in general and air quality in particular," the team says. "Cleaner air will elevate the level of happiness of citizens in Europe and we suspect in other regions around the globe."
Their analysis, is reported in the latest issue of the International Journal of Green Economics.