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The Life Satisfaction Approach to Environmental Valuation  

Christopher Fleming and Christopher Ambrey

The method and practice of placing monetary values on environmental goods and services for which a conventional market price is otherwise unobservable is one of the most fertile areas of research in the field of natural resource and environmental economics. Initially motivated by the need to include environmental values in benefit–cost analysis, practitioners of nonmarket valuation have since found further motivation in national account augmentation and environmental damage litigation. Despite hundreds of applications and many decades of refinement, shortcomings in all of the techniques remain, and no single technique is considered superior to the others in all respects. Thus, techniques that expand the suite of options available to the non-market valuation practitioner have the potential to represent a genuine contribution to the field. One technique to recently emerge from the economics of happiness literature is the “experienced preference method” or “life satisfaction approach.” Simply, this approach entails the inclusion of non-market goods as explanatory variables within micro-econometric functions of life satisfaction along with income and other covariates. The estimated coefficient for the nonmarket good yields, first, a direct valuation in terms of life satisfaction and, second, when compared to the estimated coefficient for income, the implicit willingness to pay for the non-market good in monetary terms. The life satisfaction approach offers several advantages over more conventional non-market valuation techniques. For example, the approach does not ask individuals to directly value the non-market good in question, as is the case in contingent valuation. Nor does it ask individuals to make explicit trade-offs between market and non-market goods, as is the case in discrete choice modeling. The life satisfaction approach nonetheless has some potential limitations. Crucially, self-reported life satisfaction must be regarded as a good proxy for an individual’s utility. Furthermore, in order to yield reliable non-market valuation estimates, self-reported life satisfaction measures must: (1) contain information on respondents’ global evaluation of their life; (2) reflect not only stable inner states of respondents, but also current affects; (3) refer to respondents’ present life; and (4) be comparable across groups of individuals under different circumstances. Despite these conditions, there is growing evidence to support the suitability of individual’s responses to life satisfaction questions for non-market valuation. Applications of the life satisfaction approach to the valuation of environmental goods and services to date include the valuation of air quality, airport noise, green space, scenic amenity, floods, and drought.

Article

Physical Activity, Physical Fitness, and Quality of Life  

Brian C. Focht and Ciaran M. Fairman

Health-related quality of life (HRQL) is a multidimensional subcomponent of quality of life involving subjective appraisal of various dimensions of one’s life that can be affected by health or health-related interventions. There is considerable evidence demonstrating that exercise consistently results in meaningful improvements in an array of HRQL outcomes. Advances in the conceptualization of HRQL and recent evidence identifying select moderators and mediators of the effects of upon HRQL outcomes have important implications for the design and delivery of exercise interventions. Taken collectively, contemporary findings support the utility of adopting a hierarchical, bottom-up approach to the investigation of the effects of exercise upon HRQL.

Article

Digital Communication Effects on Loneliness and Life Satisfaction  

Philipp K. Masur

The question of whether and how digital media use and digital communication affect people’s and particularly adolescents’ well-being has been investigated for several decades. Many studies have analyzed how different forms of digital communication influence loneliness and life satisfaction, two comparatively stable cognitive indicators of subjective well-being. Despite this large body of empirical work, the findings remain ambivalent, with studies resulting in positive, negative, or nonsignificant effects. Several meta-analyses suggest that the overall effect of digital communication on life satisfaction is probably too small to suggest a detrimental effect. The net effect of digital communication on loneliness, by contrast, is positive, but likewise small. Yet the studies on which these meta-analyses are based suffer from several limitations. They often adopt a limited perspective on the phenomenon of interest as a disproportionate amount of work focuses on interpersonal differences instead of intra-individual, contextual, and situational effects, as well as their interactions. Furthermore, studies are often based on cross-sectional data, use unvalidated and imprecise measurements, and differ greatly in how they conceptualize digital communication. The diversity in studied applications and forms of digital communication also suggests that effects are most likely bidirectional. Passive digital communication (e.g., browsing and lurking) is more likely to result in negative effects on well-being. Active and purposeful digital communication (e.g., posting, liking, conversating), by contrast, is more likely to result in positive effects. Future research should therefore investigate how the various levels of digital communication (including differences in devices, applications, features, interactions, and messages) interact in shaping individuals’ well-being. Instead of expecting long-term effects on comparatively stable cognitive indicators such as life satisfaction, scholars should rather study and identify the spatial and temporal boundaries of digital communication effects on the more fluctuating affective components of well-being.