The connection between subjective wellbeing and pro-environmental behaviour: Individual and cross-national characteristics in a seven-country study

Stuart Capstick, Nicholas Nash, Lorraine Whitmarsh, Wouter Poortinga, Paul Haggar, Adrian Brügger

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Abstract

A positive and reciprocal relationship between subjective wellbeing and pro-environmental behaviour (PEB) has been observed across a range of countries worldwide. There is good reason however to think that the nature of the PEB-wellbeing link might vary between individuals and cross-culturally. We use data obtained in Brazil, China, Denmark, India, Poland, South Africa and the UK (total n = 6969) to test a series of hypotheses using pre-registered regression models. First, we assess the relationship between PEB and wellbeing across countries, and test the ‘privilege’ hypothesis that this varies according to personal income and a country's level of development. Second, we consider the role of individual values and motivations in relation to PEB and wellbeing. To this end, we test the ‘enhancement’ hypothesis, in which the PEB-wellbeing link is strengthened by people holding particular values and motivations. Third, we consider the role of cultural differences for the nature of the PEB-wellbeing link. We test the ‘social green’ hypothesis that public sphere behaviours (e.g. addressing environmental issues with other people) are more closely linked to wellbeing than are private sphere behaviours (e.g. product purchasing) in collectivistic cultures; in tandem, we assess whether private sphere behaviours are more closely linked to wellbeing in individualistic cultures. We obtain strong evidence for a PEB-wellbeing link across nations. There is partial evidence across countries to support the ‘social green’ hypothesis, but little evidence for the ‘privilege’ or ‘enhancement’ hypotheses. We discuss the implications of our findings for understanding the relationship between PEB and wellbeing, and consider how its promotion might feature in environmental and public health policy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-73
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Volume133
Early online date21 Mar 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this research was provided by the European Research Council (award no. 336665 ) as part of the Low-Carbon Lifestyles and Behavioural Spillover project. Further funding was provided by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (project reference ES/S012257/1 ). We gratefully acknowledge the support of collaborators who helped with the development of survey items: Rafaella de Carvalho Rodrigues Araújo, Katarzyna Byrka, Valdiney Gouveia, Alicja Grabarczyk, Marie Harder, Yuebai Liu, Romeo Palakatsela, Monika dos Santos, John Thøgersen, Katia Vione, and Xiao Wang.

Keywords

  • Cross-cultural
  • Materialism
  • Motivations
  • Pro-environmental behaviour
  • Values
  • Wellbeing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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