The Better the Society the Smaller the Effect — Subjective Perceptions as Mediators Between Inequality and Life Satisfaction

About this Session


Fri. 08.04. 10:45



Speaker: Samuli Koponen, Co-Author: Antti Kouvo

The aim of this paper is to study perceptions of society as mediator between the objective inequality of societies and individual life satisfaction. In the paper, we look at inequality and its’ consequences from the perspective of socio-ecological psychology and expand the analysis to the level of nation-states.
Our research questions are: 1) What is the relationship between objective inequality in society and perceptions of society with life satisfaction? 2) How do the perceptions of society mediate the effect of these objective conditions?  The data come from European Social Survey 2008 (N = 56752) and 2018 (N = 44387). To measure the objective societal conditions, we utilize several country-level datasets from OECD, United Nations and Eurostat. The data is analyzed with hierarchical linear regression with random coefficients.
Results show that perceptions of society have a direct effect on life satisfaction. These perceptions also mediate partially the effect of objective conditions, such as inequality, on life satisfaction. When the perceptions of society are considered, the effect of inequality reduce almost two thirds. In addition, we observed so called “saturation effect”. The effect of perceptions of society depends on the objective conditions – the better the society the smaller the effect.
The main result is that well-being is function of individual and environment. As such they should be both considered when studying well-being or related concepts. The contents of perceptions concerning different aspects of society should be examined more closely as well as mechanisms between perceptions of society and life satisfaction.

Keywords: subjective wellbeing, inequality, social ecology, socioecological psychology