Well-being and Public Attitudes in Afghanistan: Some insights from the economics of happiness
& Soumya Chattopadhyay
Published: September 2009
Afghanistan is a context where individuals have to cope with the most adverse of circumstances. Our study of happiness finds that Afghans conform to a remarkably consistent worldwide pattern in the determinants of happiness across individuals within countries of all different development levels. Average happiness scores in Afghanistan, meanwhile, are higher than the world average and on a par with those from Latin America. In contrast, scores on a ‘best possible life’ question are much lower. This suggests that Afghans may be naturally cheerful and/or have adapted their expectations downward in the face of adversity, yet are more realistic when thinking about their situation in relative terms. Also suggestive of adaptation is that Afghans in general do not report to be unhappy when victims of crime and corruption, most likely because these phenomena have become the norm. In contrast, respondents in some Taliban-influenced regions, where crime and corruption are less common, do report unhappiness with corruption victimisation. More generally, resilient preferences for political freedom coexist with tolerance of crime and corruption and low levels of trust in public institutions.