Can Sleep Duration Help Explain Differences in the Happiness Index Across Nations?

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Abstract

Inadequate sleep is an important public health problem that can affect one in every three adults; however, it received little attention in the economics of happiness research. The objective of this article is to examine whether sleep adequacy contributes to the explanation of variation in happiness index levels across countries. Analysis was undertaken using ordinary least squares regression method. The dependent variable is the self-reported happiness index developed by the Gallup poll and published in the World Happiness Report. Two alternative model specifications were used. The first included average sleep minutes per country, GDP per capita(purchasing power parity), unemployment rate, and environmental performance index. The second model specification included average sleep minutes per country, GDP (purchasing power parity), and economic freedom index. Both model specifications met several robustness checks, and showed overall significance and significant coefficients. Results showed that an increase in average sleep duration by 10 minutes is associated with an improvement in the happiness score by 0.1 and 0.15 points in the first and second model specifications respectively, noting an average happiness score of 6.2 in the country sample. The conclusion that sleep duration contributes to explaining variation in happiness levels across countries is a call for policy makers to consider policies targeting improvement in sleep adequacy as priority, and to direct more resources to further research in the area of sleep economics. Previous studies in the area of happiness economics did not consider sleep in explaining differences in happiness among countries, and previous studies in the area of economics of sleep did not consider the happiness index at a global level.

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