Saturday 15 May 2010


An important argument put forward in The Spirit Level is that people in less equal societies feel alienated and lonely. This, say Wilkinson and Pickett, goes hand-in-hand with the breakdown of community life. As I show in The Spirit Level Delusion, there is no evidence that people in countries such as the USA and Australia are less involved in the community than the people of Japan and Scandinavia. If anything, the reverse is the case.

One other small piece of evidence is worth mentioning. The data in the graph below come from an international survey of 15 year olds which asks them whether they agree with the statement 'I feel lonely'. This comes from the UNICEF report on child well-being (2007) and the results are shown below.

There are no data for the USA, Korea, Singapore, Slovenia or Hong Kong. I have excluded Japan from the graph to maintain scale but only because this very equal nation has a 'loneliness' score of 51%, a quite extraordinary figure when all the other countries come well under 10%.

As ever, I am reluctant to claim any kind of cause-and-effect here. Without an explanation for the correlation, it is foolish to cry causation. This graph does, however, act as further evidence that people in more equal countries are not happier, less alienated or less lonely.


Devan Evans said...

I am looking for the source you state and I was wondering if this was it?:

If it is, could you put it on your blog for those who would like to read the source themselves such as I tend to do?

Christopher Snowdon said...

That's the one. The one that comes top on Google for 'UNICEF report on child well-being 2007' and is referenced at the back of The Spirit Level Delusion.