COLUMBIA, Mo. (August 6, 2012) – Freedom of the press is viewed by many as a cornerstone of democracy. But can it actually help improve people’s lives and make them happy? A researcher at the Missouri School of Journalism has found that citizens of countries with press freedom tend to be much happier than citizens of countries without free presses. Doctoral student Edson Tandoc Jr. says that press freedom directly predicts life satisfaction across the world.
Tandoc and his co-author, Bruno Takahashi from Michigan State University, analyzed data from 161 countries using a 2010 Gallup Poll evaluating happiness levels around the world. Tandoc and Takahashi compared those happiness levels with Freedom House‘s press freedom index which rates the level of each country’s press freedom. They also examined human development statistics gathered by the United Nations as well as the Environmental Performance Index created by researchers at Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy. Tandoc found that the more press freedom a country enjoyed, the higher the levels of life satisfaction, or happiness, of its citizens tended to be.
Tandoc also found that countries with higher levels of press freedom enjoyed better environmental quality and higher levels of human development, both of which also contribute to life satisfaction. He credits this to the watchdog function of the press, which helps expose corruption of all levels in a community.
This study was published in the Social Indicators Research journal and presented at the International Communication Association 2012 conference in Phoenix.
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