Press release, 19 May 2010

Eurofound presents new trend data on the perception of quality of life and subjective well-being in Europe between 2003 and 2009:

Level of trust in government and national parliament plummets across Europe

(DUBLIN, IRELAND) Satisfaction with life in general in Europe has fallen by about 4% between the last quarter of 2007 and September 2009, according to trends on the subjective well-being in the 27 EU Member States. The most marked change over the same period of recessionary climate was the 12% decline in people’s levels of trust in political institutions. The data from Eurofound, the Dublin-based EU agency providing European social policymakers with comparative data, research and recommendations to improve living and working conditions, will be presented at the Gallup European Summit on Wellbeing in Brussels, Belgium, on 19-20 May 2010.

The decline in levels of life satisfaction was more marked in the 10 new EU Member States (NMS10), among which global life satisfaction had been increasing since joining the European Union in 2004. The average score among the 10 NMS fell from 6.47 to 6.05, representing a decline of 6% or twice as great as the fall in life satisfaction in the EU15 countries. The biggest falls were in Bulgaria and Romania, Estonia and Latvia, but also in France where the average life satisfaction rating fell from 7.32 in 2007 to 6.73 in 2009.

There was no difference between men and women in change scores between 2007 and 2009, but among younger people, aged 18-34 years, the life satisfaction rating fell by only 1% compared with a 5% decline for older people.

‘It’s clear that people’s perception of quality of life have been influenced by the economic crisis over the past two years,’ says Jorma Karppinen, Eurofound’s Director, commenting on the findings. ‘It is, however, important to document and interpret the extent of any changes in satisfaction with different aspects of life and to identify groups on which the financial crisis has had most impact.’

Among the most marked changes between 2007 and 2009 was a decline in many Member States in reported levels of trust in government and national parliament. Questions about trust in their national parliament and government were asked for the first time in 2007. The average score of 4.62 (out of 10) was not high, but it was only 4.08 in 2009, a decline of 12%. The average was 4.31 in the EU15 and 3.25 in the NMS12; it ranged from 6.16 in Luxembourg and 5.28 in Cyprus to 3.22 in Greece and 2.25 in Latvia. The biggest falls between 2007 and 2009 were in Estonia and Latvia, Spain and Greece, Ireland and Romania – tending to reflect countries whose economic situation deteriorated most in the financial crisis.

Social relations have been examined by Eurofound by asking people to rate the level of tension between a range of social groups. Although there is much discussion of ‘gender’ and ‘intergenerational’ conflict, relatively few people in the EU actually register these as major sources of tension in their country. Between 2003 and 2007, reporting of ‘a lot of tension’ had declined by between 4% and 6% for the three social groups investigated here. However, between the 2007 and 2009 surveys the proportions reporting ‘a lot of tension’ have increased by 2%-3%. The increased reporting of tensions between ‘poor and rich’ was most marked in Malta and Slovenia, and also Slovakia, but otherwise mainly in northern Europe – UK and Ireland, Finland and Sweden, Latvia and Estonia – all had proportions reporting ‘a lot of tension’ that was 5% or more higher in 2009 than in 2007.

While indicators of both global life satisfaction and satisfaction with standard of living had improved between 2003 and 2007 particularly in the new Member States, they have fallen between 2007 and 2009. However, the countries experiencing the deepest recession are not always those reporting the greatest changes in quality of life – but it does appear that Latvia and Estonia, as well as Bulgaria and Romania have been slowed in their paths towards improved well-being. The results are drawn from Eurofound’s 2007 pan-European Quality of life survey and the Eurobarometer survey module in 2009.

More information on Eurofound’s most recent work on quality of life and subjective well-being in Europe is available here.

For further information, contact Måns Mårtensson, press officer, via email or telephone: +353-1-2043124, and mobile: +353-876-593 507.

NOTE TO THE EDITOR
The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) is a tripartite EU body, whose role is to provide key actors in social policymaking with findings, knowledge and advice drawn from comparative research. Eurofound was established by Council Regulation EEC No 1365/75 of 26 May 1975 and is located in Dublin, Ireland.

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