Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Positive Affect and Health

Peter Ubel spotted this nice graph from a recent paper in Psychological Science showing the correlation between positive emotions and self-reported health in 142 countries. The data was drawn from the 2005 Gallup World Poll and contains a sample of 150,000 people (52% female, 48% male, age range 15-99, average age = 39). Ireland traditionally does very well on life satisfaction measures and we seem pretty happy here but I didn't know we had such robust health (or at least we think we do).

Higher values on the y-axis indicate more positive emotions, higher values on the x-axis indicate greater better self-reported physical health. The smaller, bluer circles indicate lower GDP, the higher, greener ones mean higher GDP.


Liam Delaney said...

Yes, the high Irish self-rated health is well-known and discussed across a lot of papers. Not clear at all though extent to which it is a reporting issue or reflecting actual better levels of broadly-defined health. Even when Ireland had much lower life expectancy than wealthier European countries, still had higher self-rated health which suggests an element of reporting differences.

Michael Daly said...

They place health on the x-axis and positive emotions on the y-axis but the paper actually focuses on the impact of emotions on health.

They find a stronger association between self-rated health and emotions in poor countries compared to rich countries and interpret this as evidence for the generalizability of research detailing the impact of emotions on health to low GDP countries.

A more likely conclusion is that health conditions tend to have larger effects on well-being in poor countries due to inadequate healthcare and the presence of other conditions with strong affective consequences like HIV/AIDS.