Household is preeminent for many publics however work, materials 
well-being and well being additionally play a key function

What do individuals worth in life? How a lot of what offers individuals satisfaction of their lives is prime and shared throughout cultures, and the way a lot is exclusive to a given society? To know these and different points, Pew Analysis Heart posed an open-ended query concerning the that means of life to just about 19,000 adults throughout 17 superior economies. 

For this report, we carried out nationally consultant Pew Analysis Heart surveys of 16,254 adults from March 12 to Might 26, 2021, in 16 superior economies. All surveys had been carried out over the cellphone with adults in Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the UK, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. Responses are weighted to be consultant of the grownup inhabitants in every public. Respondents in these publics had been requested the next open-ended query: “We’re considering exploring what it means to reside a satisfying life. What elements of your life do you at present discover significant, fulfilling or satisfying?” Responses had been transcribed by interviewers within the language wherein the interviews had been carried out.

In the US, we surveyed 2,596 adults from Feb. 1 to 7, 2021. Everybody who took half within the U.S. survey is a member of the Heart’s American Traits Panel (ATP), a web based survey panel that’s recruited by nationwide, random sampling of residential addresses. This manner practically all adults have an opportunity of choice. The survey is weighted to be consultant of the U.S. grownup inhabitants by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, training and different classes. Within the U.S., respondents had been requested a barely longer model of the identical query: “We’re considering exploring what it means to reside a satisfying life. Please take a second to replicate in your life and what makes it really feel worthwhile – then reply the query under as thoughtfully as you’ll be able to. What about your life do you at present discover significant, fulfilling or satisfying? What retains you going and why?”

Researchers examined random samples of English responses, machine-translated non-English responses and responses translated by an expert translation agency to inductively develop a codebook for the primary sources of that means talked about throughout the 17 publics. The codebook was iteratively improved through observe coding and calculations of intercoder reliability till a closing collection of 20 codes was formally adopted (see Appendix C). 

To use the codebook to the total assortment of 18,850 responses, a crew of Pew Analysis Heart coders {and professional} translators had been skilled to code English and non-English responses, respectively. Coders in each teams coded random samples and had been evaluated for consistency and accuracy. They had been requested to independently code responses solely after reaching a suitable threshold for intercoder reliability. (For extra on this, see Appendix A.) 

Right here is the query used for the report, together with the coded responses for every public. Open-ended responses have been frivolously edited for readability (and, in some circumstances, translated into English by an expert agency). Extra particulars about our worldwide survey methodology and country-specific pattern designs are out there right here. For respondents within the U.S., learn extra concerning the ATP’s methodology right here.

From analyzing individuals’s solutions, it’s clear that one supply of that means is predominant: household. In 14 of the 17 superior economies surveyed, extra point out their household as a supply of that means of their lives than another issue. Highlighting their relationships with dad and mom, siblings, youngsters and grandchildren, individuals ceaselessly point out high quality time spent with their kinfolk, the delight they get from the accomplishments of their family and even the will to reside a life that leaves an improved world for his or her offspring. In Australia, New Zealand, Greece and the US, round half or extra say their household is one thing that makes their lives fulfilling. 

Family is the top source of meaning in life in most of the publics surveyed

“An important factor for me is figure. I feel it is rather vital to construct my profession, to construct my life, in order that I’m doing higher and higher. And the way in which to try this is to take loads of private accountability and work laborious.” –Man, 25, Netherlands

Publics are additionally largely united within the relative emphasis positioned on careers and occupations. Jobs are one of many high three sources of that means for individuals in most locations surveyed. Nonetheless, the emphasis positioned on them can fluctuate extensively, from a excessive of 43% in Italy to a low of 6% in South Korea. And though in Italy as many cite their occupation as cite their household as a supply of that means, in locations just like the U.S., solely round a 3rd as many cite their careers. Whereas some particularly describe their careers and what’s significant about them – e.g., a cybersecurity employee who enjoys seeing his contributions in observe or a trainer who enjoys serving to to tell youngsters about historical past – others extra generically point out having fun with their work or their colleagues or feeling intellectually challenged.

Family, careers and material well-being are among the most cited factors for what makes life meaningful

Many additionally spotlight the significance of getting one’s primary monetary wants met – and even having some degree of luxurious – in an effort to lead a significant life. In 9 of the 17 publics surveyed, materials well-being is likely one of the high three components individuals cited and, in most locations, round one-in-five or extra point out it. In South Korea, it even emerges because the high supply of that means. Nonetheless, the approach to life components respondents cite run the gamut from “meals on the desk” and “a roof over my head” to “an honest revenue to assist my household” and “no debt” to “sufficient cash” to get pleasure from driving bikes or different actions like journey.

“Being snug and steady with primary wants (meals, shelter, well being care and public training for my baby) and a bit of further (perhaps going out to dinner or a trip).” –Lady, 51, U.S. 

Well being, too, is comparatively high of thoughts, arising as one of many high three sources of that means for individuals in round a 3rd of the locations surveyed. Nonetheless, the relative emphasis on well being can fluctuate extensively, from 48% who point out it in Spain – making it the highest supply of that means for Spaniards – to solely 6% who say the identical in Taiwan. For some, particular well being issues trigger them to worth their well being – corresponding to one American girl who famous, “God gave me life, He pulled me by most cancers. Life is valuable and we solely have one likelihood at it.” Others extra usually be aware well being as a prerequisite for different sources of that means, emphasizing “being wholesome” or “nonetheless respiratory” as a part of an inventory of issues they worth. Train and a wholesome life-style are additionally touted as sources of that means.

Notably, for many, this emphasis on well being shouldn’t be tied on to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though there’s a widespread sense in most publics surveyed that the worldwide pandemic has modified individuals’s lives, in most locations, individuals who point out well being as one thing that offers them that means aren’t any extra more likely to point out COVID-19 than those that don’t prioritize well being. Some individuals who point out each achieve this as a result of they’ve well being issues which were compounded by the illness, inflicting further problem. One American described her scenario within the following approach: “Presently, being self-quarantined on account of well being points and to avoid COVID, God is what retains me going,” whereas one other described their predicament as “years of private work to beat anxiousness and melancholy [that] took successful with social distancing.” 

Nonetheless, others who point out each well being and COVID-19 of their responses are largely appreciative of their well being as a result of of the worldwide pandemic. One American girl summarized her expertise as: “I had COVID and it was the scariest factor and it actually modified my outlook on life.” A Dutch man additionally emphasised the significance of wholesome residing even in a pandemic context: “What I discover vital for a satisfying life are issues like: to do sports activities, that means lively train 2 to three occasions per week; to eat a various food plan … now on this pandemic, you continue to should just be sure you get sufficient train and attempt to carry construction into your life by making day or week schedules.”

While family, careers, material well-being, friends and health are all top sources of meaning, they vary in importance across publics surveyed

The truth is, how a subject like COVID-19 comes up – or doesn’t – highlights the place the commonalities finish and the variations between these 17 superior economies emerge. Take Taiwan for example. In Taiwan, society – or the establishments and attributes of the place individuals reside – is the high supply of that means, above household, occupation and materials well-being. Two girls in Taiwan emphasize ease of residing on the island: “Meals, clothes, housing, and transportation are all handy. Life is protected and tranquil,” and “There are various handy shops in Taiwan … The general public medical insurance system is nice; medical service is handy.” Others be aware their satisfaction with Taiwan’s political system. One girl claimed she is “lucky to reside in Taiwan, particularly within the side of public well being, democracy, and the rule of legislation and human rights, as a result of it is rather free.” A younger man merely famous, “Dwelling in Taiwan may be very free, freer than China and Hong Kong.” Some particularly talked about their authorities’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, like a girl who listed the island’s “steady economic system, well-controlled new COVID-19 pandemic, [and] quick access to medical care” as significant. Taiwan is likely one of the few societies – the others are additionally largely within the Asia-Pacific area – the place references to COVID-19 don’t are inclined to coincide with negativity; as an alternative, most reward how properly their authorities has dealt with issues.

Americans are much more likely to mention religion as a source of meaning in life than other publics

The subject of religion, faith and spirituality can also be one the place some societies notably differ. Exterior of the U.S., faith is rarely one of many high 10 sources of that means cited – and not more than 5% of any non-American public point out it. Within the U.S., nonetheless, 15% point out faith or God as a supply of that means, making it the fifth most talked about matter. For some, the emphasis on faith is about their private relationship with Jesus: “I comply with Jesus so my religion and hope relies on how he performs a job in my life. I don’t depend on any human to profit my life.” Others be aware the advantages that come from being a part of organized faith, corresponding to camaraderie in a troublesome time: “My husband simply died, so life shouldn’t be very fulfilling proper now. The assist of household and associates, church, and his coworkers have helped me discover that means, in addition to eager about the nice issues we shared.” Evangelical Protestants within the U.S. are more likely than mainline Protestants to say religion as a supply of that means – 34% vs. 13%, respectively. Throughout all U.S. spiritual teams, those that attend spiritual providers extra usually are more likely to quote their faith of their reply than those that are much less frequent attendees.

“I discover [living] inside [New Zealand] satisfying. We reside in a rustic which has pure magnificence and has a substantial amount of respect for nature which in flip helps us get a greater connection to the nation. I like going exterior, going for a run each day, and seeing blue skies, forests and the great individuals and it has a optimistic impression on my psychological well being, and particularly in comparison with different nations I’ve been to.” –Man, 18, New Zealand

The UK, Australia, France, New Zealand and Sweden additionally stand aside for the relative emphasis they place on nature in comparison with many different locations surveyed. In every of those nations, nature is likely one of the high eight sources of that means. Within the UK, too, hobbies and actions are revered by many: Round one-in-five point out their hobbies as one thing that offers them satisfaction in life, rating solely behind household and associates. (To discover extra about how every society is comparable – or totally different – and to examine the place individuals get that means in their very own phrases, please see “What individuals all over the world say concerning the that means of life.”)

When discussing what makes life significant and fulfilling, a median of 10% throughout the 17 publics surveyed additionally point out challenges or difficulties which have interfered with their seek for happiness. As soon as once more, this varies considerably throughout the publics surveyed, with round one-in-five mentioning hardships in Italy, however solely 5% or fewer saying the identical in New Zealand and the UK. In some locations surveyed – together with Italy, the U.S. and Spain – those that point out their society, locations and establishments are additionally extra more likely to point out challenges or difficulties. In South Korea and Taiwan, the other is true: In each of those publics, those that point out their society are much less more likely to point out adverse issues. Individuals who discover that means of their household or their associates additionally are usually much less more likely to point out difficulties or challenges, and the identical is true of those that point out training and studying or their hobbies. 

Why this report focuses on matter rankings along with percentages

South Koreans, Japanese especially likely to provide only one source of meaning in life

There’s some variation in whether or not and the way individuals reply to the open-ended query. In every public surveyed, some respondents mentioned that they didn’t perceive the query, didn’t know easy methods to reply or didn’t need to reply. The share of adults that did so ranged from 23% within the U.S. to 1% in Spain. 

In some publics, individuals additionally tended to say fewer issues that make life significant of their response than did individuals surveyed elsewhere. For instance, throughout the 17 publics surveyed, a median of 34% responded to the query about what offers them that means in life by mentioning solely one of many matters researchers coded (e.g., household). The shares in South Korea and Japan are a lot larger, with at the least half solely citing one supply of that means when offering a response.

These variations assist clarify why the share giving a specific reply in sure publics could seem a lot decrease than others, even when the subject is the highest talked about supply of that means for that given public. To provide a selected instance, 19% of South Koreans point out materials well-being whereas 42% say the identical in Spain, however the matter is ranked first in South Korea and second in Spain. Given this, researchers have chosen to spotlight not solely the share of the general public who point out a given matter but additionally its relative rating among the many matters coded, each within the textual content and in graphics. 

These are among the many findings of a brand new evaluation of an open-ended query about that means in life, which was a part of a Pew Analysis Heart survey carried out Feb. 1 to Might 26, 2021, amongst 18,850 adults in 17 superior economies. 

Along with similarities and variations between the publics surveyed, the evaluation additionally reveals broader patterns in the place individuals discover that means primarily based on their age, gender, revenue and political ideology, amongst different components. A few of these further key findings embrace: 

Those under 30 often more likely to find meaning in friends, jobs, education and hobbies than older people
  • Youthful individuals have a tendency to emphasise their associates, training and hobbies as sources of that means extra so than older individuals. For his or her half, older individuals are extra more likely to focus on retirement and well being than youthful ones. Older individuals are additionally considerably extra more likely to focus on challenges and adverse issues when discussing what offers them that means than youthful ones. 
  • In most respects, women and men are fairly comparable with regard to what offers them that means. However girls are considerably extra more likely to point out household as a supply of satisfaction of their lives than are males in most locations surveyed. Ladies are additionally considerably extra more likely to emphasize their well being than are males. 
  • Individuals with larger ranges of training and better incomes are usually extra more likely to point out their household and profession as issues that give them that means than are individuals with decrease ranges of training or decrease incomes, respectively., Mentions of service and civic engagement are usually larger amongst these with extra training. These with decrease incomes are additionally considerably extra more likely to cite challenges of their lives when discussing what offers them that means than these with larger incomes.
  • Those that place themselves on the left of the ideological spectrum usually tend to cite nature as a supply of that means than those that place themselves on the fitting. They’re additionally extra more likely to point out their associates and hobbies, whereas these on the ideological proper point out faith extra usually. 
Those on the ideological left more likely to find meaning in nature, hobbies, education and friends; less likely to find meaning in religion
  • Within the U.S., partisanship additionally generally performs a job. For instance, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are about twice as doubtless than their Democratic counterparts to carry up freedom and independence. Individuals at the moment – and particularly Republicans – have additionally turn out to be extra more likely to point out freedom and independence as a supply of that means in life since 2017. For extra on this and different adjustments over time, see “The place Individuals discover that means in life has modified over the previous 4 years.”


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