Relying on love of country to buoy life satisfaction

Old Glory, Patriotic Rustic Peeling American Flag, The Stars & Stripes, Red, White, Blue, on Woodphoto © 2009 Beverly | more info (via: WylioIn a recently published study in Psychological Science, University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign researchers Morrison, Tay and Diener examined data from over 132,000 respondents in 128 countries to consider the relationship between personal life (subjective well-being, aka SWB) and country satisfaction.

We found that the relationship between national satisfaction and
life satisfaction was stronger in the poorest countries of the world, for those with less income, and those with fewer household conveniences. The moderating role of GDP, income, and conveniences reveals that when individuals have greater trouble meeting their basic needs, external factors such as group evaluations come to have a stronger influence on SWB. . .

Those in poverty may elevate nationhood to a more central component of their social identity, thus making it more relevant in judging their quality of life. This might explain why ratings of  national satisfaction are higher on average than ratings of life satisfaction among relatively poorer individuals and those living in the poorer countries.

When faced with financial and material struggles in your own life, you’re more apt to look for that glimmer of hope in less immediate aspects of life. The current economic slump has a far reaching impact as working Americans face employment uncertainty, the mortgage crisis and financial challenges.

The personal experience of the recession makes a wavering American dream unacceptable. Accordingly, politicians pitch their policies as a way to prolong America’s greatness in the world and challenge fellow candidates who would deign to impugn the reputation of our country during campaign season. We’re going to have success and happiness with our lives any way we can, even if we’re trying to live vicariously through the very idea of greatness.

As important as it is take comfort and pride in your national identity, relying on it to buoy spirits means ignoring growing threats to the long term to health and vitality of the US.

The longer the recession, the longer it may take to face some hard truths for our country.

Take the health care reform debate, if it could even be called a debate. Serious shortcomings in our health delivery and insurance mechanisms were overlooked, if not completely ignored. America’s best cheerleaders plugged the ignorant, but carefully formulated, messaging that the US has the best health care system in the world.

Factually, it does not. Despite spending more on health care per person than anywhere else in the world, we rank 49th in life expectancy. As  much as health care reform oppositions liked to cite surveys of dissatisfaction with the waits for treatment in Canada or the UK, they rank 10th and 28th, respectively. We rank a lowly 33rd in infant mortality, against bested by the UK (22) and Canada (23). But those facts didn’t matter.

Or we could look at our students’ performance up against those of other OECD nations: in 2009 we ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science, 25th in math. Are those the scores of the next generation of leaders of industry and innovators in technology?

We could go on and on from failing infrastructure to our disproportionate incarceration rates, etc.

Even sadder, these challenges could give us a rallying point around which we could further strengthen our love of country and its performance for its people.