World: Freedom to Choose and Life Satisfaction, Happiness Score

Freedom to choose lead to more or less life satisfaction or happiness? I watched Barry Schwartz talk at TED about why (a lot of) choices make people miserable, for the reasons: 1) regret and anticipated regret, 2) opportunity cost, 3) escalation of expectation, and 4) self-blame. Interested to know how true is this claim make, World Values Survey seemed to provide some relevant questions. The questions included in the whole survey were:

1) How much freedom of choice and control, with a score of 1-10 given. 1 being “none at all” and 10 being “a great deal”. The value displayed here shows the mean score.

2) Satisfaction with your life. Again, a score of 1-10 is given, and 1 being dissatisfied and 10 being satisfied. The value displayed here shows the mean score.

3) Feeling of happiness. Four categorical answers, “very happy”, “quite happy”, “not very happy” and “not at all happy” are given out as option. The values shown here the percentage of people view they were “very happy” or “quite happy”.

Overall, European countries were seeing higher score in freedom of choice and control (7.00 out of 10), compared to Asia/Africa non-rich countries like Bangladesh, China, Vietnam or South Africa (6.44 out of 10). [or see the summary below, Asia non-rich countries exclude Japan, Korea and Singapore]


On a glimpse, the freedom to choose and control is positively correlate to satisfaction of life score and feeling “very happy” percentage. To have better look, the above-mentioned variables are scatter-plot:

1) Satisfaction with life vs. Freedom to choose and control:

Rsquare=0.585, P<0.001.

2) Feeling of “Very Happy (%)” vs Freedom to choose and control:

Rsquare=0.323, P=0.009

In a strict sense, the questions in the survey did not actually fit into Schwartz’s claim, like a lot of choices might not be neccessarily mean freedom to choose and control. However, if there is no various choices (more than one option) to be made, what would be the point of the existence of freedom to choose and control? [Like if there is only one type of jean exist and I have to take that jean, it is not a choice. But there is 100 types of jeans around, then I would have choices to make about the right type of jean I want] With this, the positive correlation of subjective feeling of having a lot of freedom of choice and control to life satisfaction and happiness suggest that the claim is not universally true. It could be true in some personal life and decision to make, like having headache of choosing the right jean among 100 types, but it would definitely feel better than if I can only choose 1 jean out of 1 type. Optimal number of choices? It could be, but what number is optimal to X might not work for Y, or B…

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