What is more important for national well-being: money or autonomy? A meta-analysis of well-being, burnout, and anxiety across 63 societies

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2011 Jul;101(1):164-84. doi: 10.1037/a0023663.


What is more important: to provide citizens with more money or with more autonomy for their subjective well-being? In the current meta-analysis, the authors examined national levels of well-being on the basis of lack of psychological health, anxiety, and stress measures. Data are available for 63 countries, with a total sample of 420,599 individuals. Using a 3-level variance-known model, the authors found that individualism was a consistently better predictor than wealth, after controlling for measurement, sample, and temporal variations. Despite some emerging nonlinear trends and interactions between wealth and individualism, the overall pattern strongly suggests that greater individualism is consistently associated with more well-being. Wealth may influence well-being only via its effect on individualism. Implications of the findings for well-being research and applications are outlined.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / ethnology*
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Burnout, Professional / ethnology*
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology*
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Data Collection
  • Depression / ethnology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Economics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Male
  • Personal Autonomy*
  • Personality Inventory / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychometrics
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Social Values*