Story at a glance
- Researchers have found that higher incomes may improve people’s day-to-day well-being.
- A new study suggests that biological diversity, especially of birds, can increase life satisfaction just as much as income.
- During the coronavirus pandemic, nature has emerged as an escape from quarantine and social isolation.
In our pursuit of that elusive thing called happiness, scientists can offer few findings. One is that, contrary to popular belief, money can actually buy happiness. Another, more recent, is that so can birds.
"Europeans are particularly satisfied with their lives if their immediate surroundings host a high species diversity," said the lead author of a recent study published in Science Daily. Joel Methorst, a doctoral researcher at the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, the iDiv, and the Goethe University in Frankfurt, explained that, "according to our findings, the happiest Europeans are those who can experience numerous different bird species in their daily life, or who live in near-natural surroundings that are home to many species."
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The social isolation necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic has pushed many people to escape into the outdoors and reconnect with nature. Research suggests that spending more time in nature and with animals can help people relax and even lessen physical and mental stress.
And the more birds, the better, according to the study, which analyzed data from the "2012 European quality of Life Survey" on life satisfaction in more than 26,000 adults from 26 European countries. A 10 percent increase in the number of bird species in peoples' surroundings increased their life satisfaction as much as an extra 10 percent in the bank, the study found.
"We also examined the socio-economic data of the people that were surveyed, and, much to our surprise, we found that avian diversity is as important for their life satisfaction as is their income," Katrin Böhning-Gaese, director of the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, professor at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, and member of the iDiv, said in the article.
Climate change, however, is threatening many species’ habitats and the authors pointed to studies of avian species in agricultural landscapes in Europe that show declining biological diversity.
"This poses the risk that human well-being will also suffer from an impoverished nature. Nature conservation therefore not only ensures our material basis of life, but it also constitutes an investment in the well-being of us all," said Methorst.
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