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Temporal dimensions of reported life satisfaction in a low-income, agricultural environment

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Helen Joyce Adams, Andrew Reid Bell, Tamal Haque

Original languageEnglish
Article number29
JournalEcology And Society
Volume24
Issue number4
Early online date4 Dec 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019

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Abstract

Improving quality of life of farmers in rapidly changing rural economies remains a challenge. In low income settings, agricultural lean seasons lead to a fall in consumption and nutrition that affect longer term well-being trajectories. However, human well-being goes beyond material wealth, and increasingly subjective well-being is measured to reflect whether personal objectives are being met across a range of life domains. However, resource constraints mean surveys are usually carried out once a year, or at most, once a season. Here, we investigate whether life satisfaction reported annually is representative of assessments throughout the year, with a focus on the influence of the agricultural cycle on scores. We do so using data from a novel, mobile phone-based survey that collected 10,032 observations of life satisfaction reported weekly for one calendar year in land-owning farmers in Bangladesh. The data show that most individuals report stable and midrange life satisfaction. Smaller groups show consistently low, consistently high, or fluctuating levels of satisfaction. Using a cluster analysis, we define natural groups based on levels and stability of satisfaction. Social-demographics as well as material wealth predict membership of these groups showing the relative and culturally embedded nature of subjective well-being. Agricultural activities throughout the year are significantly associated with reported life satisfaction, but not always consistent with low seasons: land preparation and harvest are associated with increased life satisfaction; weeding and irrigation are associated with lower satisfaction. Furthermore, we show that the periods of activity during the agricultural cycle most likely to be associated with satisfaction vary depending on whether the individual reports high, low, or variable life satisfaction. Thus, we suggest, to improve well-being in low-income rural areas, analysis should include people’s propensity to be satisfied, as this alters sensitivity to changes in other life domains.

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