Journal Article

Family, money, and health: regional differences in the determinants of life satisfaction over the life course

Margolis, R., Myrskylä, M.

Advances in Life Course Research, 18:2, 115-126 (2013)


Keywords: World, ageing, family, health, life cycle, mental health, wealth


We examine how family, money, and health explain variation in life satisfaction over the life cycle across seven global regions using data from the World Values Survey. With a life domain approach, we study whether the importance of the life domains varies by region and age groups and whether the variation explained by each factor is due to the magnitude or prevalence of each factor. Globally, family, money, and health explain a substantial fraction of life satisfaction, increasing from 12 percent in young adulthood to 15 percent in mature adulthood. Health is the most important factor, and its importance increases with age. Income is unimportant above age 50. Remarkably, the contribution of family is small across ages. Across regions health is most important in the wealthier, and income in the poorer regions of the world. Family explains a substantial fraction of life satisfaction only in Western Europe and Anglophone countries. Findings highlight that the population-level importance of family, money, and health in explaining variation in life satisfaction across regions is mainly attributable to the individual-level life satisfaction differences between people of different statuses rather than differences in the distribution of various states such as poor health across regions.