Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Does national pride impact on our wellbeing?

Burns Night could be described as the second national day in Scotland particularly as it is more widely celebrated than the official day itself, St Andrew’s day. In honour of this occasion, we are going to consider national pride and the effect it has on our well-being.

Indeed, it has been shown that feeling good about our country also makes us feel good about our own lives. However, a political scientist at American University and a sociologist from Catholic University in Belgium have gone further to consider different types of pride.

They define two types of national pride. ‘Ethnic’ nationalism which describes ancestry and the boundaries of society in terms of race or religion and ‘civic’ nationalism which only requires respect for a country’s laws and institutions. The latter, therefore, is more inclusive incorporating immigrants as well as minorities.

The researchers analysed responses from 40,677 individuals in 31 different countries, assessing subjective well-being and national pride and controlling for such factors as gender, work status, urban or rural residence, and the country’s per capita GDP.

Like others before them, they discovered that more national pride correlated with greater personal well-being but found that, on the whole, civic nationalists were happier than even the proudest ethnic nationalists.

These findings could have massive implications economically, socially and politically. It might mean that ethnic nationalists, who are already relatively less happy to begin with, will grow more discontent as immigration increases and their nation diversifies around them which could cause political unrest.

Some argue that national identity is needed for social cohesion and there’s no denying it does have a positive impact on our well-being, but perhaps what is more important is how people define their national pride. Interestingly, it seems that pride and respect for the country in which you live regardless of your nationality is more beneficial to your well-being than national pride based solely on race or religion alone.

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