Multinational Life Satisfaction, Perceived Inequality and Energy Affordability
This joint research was undertaken to uncover the linkage between energy affordability, life satisfaction, health and economic inequality. Associate Professors Andrew Chapman and Hidemichi Fujii worked with Distinguished Professor Shunsuke Managi, utilizing a large sample survey of 100,956 respondents across 37 nations to improve our understanding of the role that energy affordability plays in stakeholder life outcomes.
While it may seem logical that generally speaking high income is linked to high levels of satisfaction and, ostensibly strong health outcomes as well as a low sense of inequality with one's peers, our research identifies a number of cultural, regional and national policy based levers which can affect our perceived or self reported lifestyle outcomes.
This research project emerged following many collaborative conversations, meetings and debates surrounding the key issues of energy poverty, energy affordability , lifestyles, economic norms, and the need to investigate these issues both academically and by engaging directly with stakeholders.
One of the strengths of this research is the diverse backgrounds and specialties of the team members. Professor Managi, who oversaw the considerable undertaking of the surveys in 37 nations, focuses on the diverse areas of resource and environmental economics and policy. Associate Professor Fujii, who lead the data analysis, has a background in environmental economics, environmental management theory and industrial ecology. Associate Professor Chapman, who lead the research design and policy implications, researches energy systems, energy transitions and has a strong focus on social equity issues in energy. This combination of skills and strong collaborative track record lead to an objective, nuanced research project, uncovering some useful findings for researchers who are concerned with the cultural and regional underpinnings of lifestyle, satisfaction and health outcomes for stakeholders.
Understanding that previous considerations of energy poverty or energy affordability issues have been strongly linked with nation or region specific indicators (such as the 10% of income measure ), we sought to take a stakeholder centric approach to determining self-reported energy affordability and related outcomes, using self-reported measures. This subjective approach allowed us to uncover some variation to precedential research findings, particularly that high income was necessarily linked to positive health, satisfaction and perceived inequality outcomes. We found that cultural and lifestyle factors play a strong role alongside other factors such as energy access, particularly in poorer or less developed nations.
Further, we identified that while less developed nations’ outcomes are likely to be improved through developmental aid from more developed nations, important lessons regarding cultural and other factors which underpin satisfaction can be learned by developing nations who experience comparatively poor perceived life-satisfaction outcomes in spite of higher incomes and better energy access.
An important policy implication identified in this multi-country study was that stakeholder engagement which includes householders is critical to understanding the national preferences and key issues which are emerging due to energy affordability issues in different nations.
Building on our findings, we identify that there is no ‘one-size-fits all’ policy approach that will solve the health, economic gap, life satisfaction or income level issues identified, and policy responses will need to be tailored to the nations in which they are to be delivered. Indeed, policy which seeks to improve energy affordability needs to be culturally aware, and to follow an investigative process, specifically when dealing with overlapping issues such as energy access and limited government expenditure on health or welfare.
The findings of this research will aid in the development of fit-for-purpose energy affordability, health and economic policies to improve stakeholder outcomes, while future research will assess the underpinning non-income based factors of life satisfaction and health, which are likely linked to superior health and satisfaction outcomes in less developed nations.
The article can be found in Nature Sustainability at the following link: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-019-0303-5
1. Boardman, B., Fixing Fuel Poverty: Challenges and Solutions. Earthscan; London. (2010).