Many Indigenous peoples and local communities around the world are leading very satisfying lives despite having very little money. This is the conclusion of a study by the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB), which shows that many societies with very low monetary income have remarkably high levels of life satisfaction, comparable to those in wealthy countries.
Economic growth is often prescribed as a sure way of increasing the well-being of people in low-income countries, and global surveys in recent decades have supported this strategy by showing that people in high-income countries tend to report higher levels of life satisfaction than those in low-income countries. This strong correlation might suggest that only in rich societies can people be happy.
However, a recent study conducted by ICTA-UAB in collaboration with McGill University in Canada suggests that there may be good reasons to question whether this link is universal. While most global polls, such as the World Happiness Report, gather thousands of responses from the citizens of industrialized societies, they tend to overlook people in small-scale societies on the fringes, where the exchange of money plays a minimal role in everyday life and livelihoods depend directly on nature.
The research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), consisted of a survey of 2,966 people from Indigenous and local communities in 19 globally distributed sites. Only 64% of surveyed households had any cash income. The results show that “surprisingly, many populations with very low monetary incomes report very high average levels of life satisfaction, with scores similar to those in wealthy countries,” says Eric Galbraith, researcher at ICTA-UAB and McGill University and lead author of the study. [Continue reading…]