EUROPEAN PAPERS ON THE NEW WELFARE

Sustainable Development and Quality of Life in the Ageing Societies

3. Correlations between quality of life and ageing

The environmental Sustainability Index and Inequality Adjusted Life Satisfaction on one hand, and percentage of population of over 65 and number of children per woman on the other hand have been selected as relevant indices which would reveal relations between quality of life on one hand and ageing on the other hand.
Different relations have been explored and it is clear that ageing is closely related both to environmental sustainability as well as to the subjective quality of life indices. Only countries for which both pairs of data in the graph exist, have been selected, and indices depicting ageing have been plotted as a function of quality of life indices. Here data from the Environmental Sustainability Index (Esty et al., 2005), happiness and life satisfaction (Veenhoven, 2004) and ageing (www.undp.org) have been selected.
Happiness and life satisfaction are related to environmental sustainability. While it is well known that there is a positive correlation between life satisfaction and environmental sustainability, the data also indicate another possible explanation. Parabola gives a fit of a similar quality than the straight line (Fig. 1). While the happiest countries are also the most sustainable on average, it is interesting to observe that also the least sustainable countries tend to be happier than countries with average values of ESI. This relation is shown to be even stronger in a group of countries of similar cultural and historical background (Fig. 2).

Figure 1: Inequality Adjusted Life Satisfaction as a function of the Environmental Sustainability Index
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Figure 2: Inequality Adjusted Life Satisfaction as a function of the Environmental Sustainability Index for the former Soviet countries
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Some typical relations are shown in figures 3 to 6. The percentage of population over 65 as a function of the Environmental Sustainability Index (Fig. 3) demonstrates that on average ageing societies are also more sustainable. It is however not clear that improved environmental sustainability is a consequence of ageing, because it is also possible that while both environmental sustainability and ageing arise from similar cultural, societal and economic conditions, they are not directly related to each other.

Figure 3: Percentage of population over 65 as a function of the Environmental Sustainability Index
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It is also interesting to observe the relation between the decrease in births from 1970s to 2000s (Fig. 4, 5). This comparison demonstates that both more environmentaly sustainable societies (Fig. 4) and happier societies (Fig. 5) are experiencing a smaller decrease in the number of births. This relation is most likely due to an underlying common mechanism, which first reduced the birth rate in developed countries making them more sustainable, and at the same time diminished the pressure to further reduce the birth rate.

Figure 4: Ratio of birth rates in 2000-2005 and in 1970-1975 as a function of the Environmental Sustainability. The smaller number indicates a smaller birth rate in 2000-2005 as compared to the 1970-1975 period
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