Researchers at Imperial College London claim to have shown a correlation between a country’s placing in the Eurovision ranks and the level of its population’s satisfaction.
The study aimed to assess whether a country’s performance in the competition is associated with life satisfaction and suicide mortality.
Individual level data were collected from the Eurobarometer survey, an initiative that carries out ~1000 face to face interviews per European country per year. Life satisfaction from these surveys was assessed with the question: “On the whole, are you very satisfied, fairly satisfied, not very satisfied or not at all satisfied with the life you lead?”
The Eurobarometer studies also included demographic data on age, sex, occupation, age they stopped full-time education, marital status, area of residence (urban vs. rural) and difficulties to pay bills during the last 12 months.
Taking all this data into consideration, they found that people were 4% more satisfied with their life for every increase of ten places on the final score board.
Dr Filippos Filippidis, lead author of the research from the School of Public Health at Imperial, said:
"This finding emerged from a jokey conversation in our department. Our 'day job' involves investigating the effect of public policies, environmental factors and economic conditions on people's lifestyle and health. Our department employs people from lots of different countries and around the time of the Eurovision Song Contest we were chatting about whether the competition could also affect a country's national wellbeing. We looked into it and were surprised to see there may be a link."
Correlation vs. CausationSo, does the result of the Eurovision Song Contest directly influence the happiness and well being of a country’s population? Well, no. The research only shows there is an association.
Causation and Correlation explained, courtesy of XKCD Comics.
However, Dr Filippidis does say the work highlights the possible impact of big events on a nation’s psyche:
"Previous work, by other teams around the world, has shown that national events may affect mood and even productivity - for instance research suggests an increase in productivity in the winning city of the US Super Bowl."
Adding that having something else to discuss other than depressing news, may act to lift the spirits of the country’s individuals.
"It increases the amount of good feeling around, even among people who are not particularly interested in the competition. I remember when Greece won in 2005 - in the weeks that followed people seemed to be in a better mood."
You have to be in it to win it
The team’s analysis revealed that a country’s overall performance was associated with a little bit of an improvement in life satisfaction and decreased death from suicide.
However, performing terribly in the contest was associated with better life satisfaction compared to not participating at all.
So, despite the political undertones, the gaudy costumes and the diverse musical quality, perhaps there is a reason to enter the competition year on year, if only to share the pain of getting ‘nil-points’ with your neighbour down the street?
As Dr. Fillipidis explains:
"Our research shows that science can be used to test unexpected questions, but more importantly we hope it will encourage people to consider how our wellbeing, and consequently our health, can be influenced by a range of factors in the public sphere."
Filippidis, F. & Laverty, A. A. (2018). “Euphoria” or “Only Teardrops”? Eurovision Song Contest performance, life satisfaction and suicide. BMC Public Health,18(582). doi:https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-018-5497-3