Study of the Day: The National Pride That Brings Happiness

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Nationalism that's rooted in respect for laws and institutions, not race or religion, makes citizens the happiest, according to new research.

main thumb Ami Parikh shutterstock_54276985.jpg

PROBLEM: Previous research has shown that national pride makes people feel good about their own lives. But does what you're proud of matter too?

METHODOLOGY: Tim Reeskens, a sociologist from Catholic University in Belgium, and Matthew Wright, a political scientist at American University, categorized national pride into "ethnic nationalism," which is tied to ancestry and religious beliefs, and "civic nationalism," which prioritizes respect for a country's institutions and laws.

They analyzed the responses of 40,677 people from 31 countries to questions that related to happiness and national pride in the 2008 wave of the European Values Study, and controlled for various demographic variables, including gender, work status, and per capita GDP.

RESULTS: Though national pride correlates with personal well-being, civic nationalists were generally the happiest. The joy of even the proudest ethnic nationalists barely surpassed that of people with the least civic pride.

CONCLUSION: Nationalism makes people feel good. But the kind that makes citizens the happiest is rooted in respect for policies and institutions, not race or religion.

SOURCE: The full study, "Subjective Well-Being and National Satisfaction: Taking Seriously the "Proud of What?" Question," is published in the journal Psychological Science.

Image: Ami Parikh/Shutterstock.

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Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

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