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Life Satisfaction and Longevity: Longitudinal Evidence from the German Socio-Economic Panel

Cahit Guven () and Rudy Saloumidis

German Economic Review, 2014, vol. 15, issue 4, 453-472

Abstract: type="main" xml:id="geer12024-abs-0001">

We investigate the relationship between life satisfaction and mortality using the German Socio-Economic Panel, which allows us to follow around 15,000 people for more than two decades. Seventeen per cent of the respondents surveyed in 1984 died between 1984 and 2007. After controlling for initial health conditions, we find that people's life satisfaction at the beginning of the survey is deeply linked to their life expectancy: a ten per cent increase in life satisfaction is connected to a four per cent decline in the probability of death in the period studied. The relationship between life satisfaction and mortality is stronger for the married and the men but life satisfaction does not matter for the women. We find some suggestive evidence that links between life satisfaction and mortality could be operating via accidents and mental health. Finally, we show that the life satisfaction measured in 1984 extends to the rest of life: people who were happier in 1984 more frequently experienced high levels of happiness in the rest of their lives. These results suggest that life satisfaction is a powerful risk-factor for later mortality and is more predictive of mortality than a host of other variables.

Date: 2014
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German Economic Review is currently edited by Bernhard Felderer, Joseph F. Francois, Ivo Welch, Urs Schweizer and David E. Wildasin

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