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Published Online:pp 28-48

This paper explores how a range of well-being indicators have behaved in Ireland from the 1970s through 2011. Despite Ireland’s transformation from a relatively poor and backward economy in the 1970s to one of the richest countries in the world by the first decade of the 21st century, the Eurobarometer series on average life satisfaction shows no upward trend once the influence of unemployment has been allowed for. In recent years, the country has been among the hardest hit by the current ‘great recession’ but while self-assessed life satisfaction declined between 2007 and 2011 this decline was not very marked and not nearly as dramatic as has been recorded in some other crisis-stricken countries or during previous Irish recessions. Furthermore, contrary to expectations, other possible indicators of well-being, such as the suicide rate and admission rates to psychiatric hospitals have not risen in line with the soaring unemployment rate and the Irish fertility rate has remained high in the face of economic adversity. Overall, the impact of the current recession on well-being has been surprisingly small.


life satisfaction, subjective well-being, SWB, mental health, psychiatric illness, suicide, birth rate, unemployment, inflation, economic conditions, happiness, Ireland


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