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Dr. Lucía Macchia

Psychology, City University of London

ISQOLS Best Dissertation Award Won By Alumna Lucía Macchia

International Society for Quality of Life Studies

Many congratulations go to our colleague and Wellbeing Research Centre alumna, Dr. Lucía Macchia, who has won the International Society for Quality of Life Studies’ Best Dissertation Award. The prize is awarded to the best dissertation on quality of life, wellbeing, and happiness. 

The winner receives a lump sum of $1,500 USD, one-year free membership to ISQOLS, one-year free access to the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life Studies, and free registration to the 19th ISQOLS conference that will be held in August 2021.

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Physical Pain, Gender, and the State of the Economy in 146 Nations

Lucía Macchia and Andrew J. Oswald

Physical pain is one of the most severe of human experiences. It is thus one of the most important to understand. This paper reports the first cross-country study of the links between physical pain and the state of the economy. A key issue examined is how the level of pain in a society is influenced by the unemployment rate. The study uses pooled cross-sectional Gallup data from 146 countries (total N > 1.3 million). It estimates fixed-effects regression equations that control for personal characteristics. 

This study provides the first cross-country evidence that the level of physical pain in a nation depends on the state of the economy. Pain is high when the unemployment rate is high. That is not because of greater pain among people who lose their jobs — it extends far beyond that into wider society. The increase in physical pain in a downturn is experienced disproportionately by women.

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Physical Pain, Gender, and the Business Cycle in 146 Nations

Valuing Time Over Money Predicts Happiness After A Major Life Transition: A Pre-registered Longitudinal Study of Graduating Students

Ashley Whillans, Lucía Macchia & Elizabeth Dunn

How does prioritizing time or money shape major life decisions and subsequent well-being? In a preregistered longitudinal study of approximately 1000 graduating university students, respondents who valued time over money chose more intrinsically rewarding activities and were happier 1 year after graduation. These results remained significant controlling for baseline happiness and potential confounds, such as materialism and socioeconomic status, and when using alternative model specifications. These findings extend previous research by showing that the tendency to value time over money is predictive not only of daily consumer choices but also of major life decisions. In addition, this research uncovers a previously unidentified mechanism—the pursuit of intrinsically motivated activities—that underlies the previously observed association between valuing time and happiness. This work sheds new light on whether, when, and how valuing time shapes happiness.

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The Subjective Well-being Political Paradox: Evidence From Latin America

L Macchia & AC Plagnol

This book presents a panoramic view of the implications from Richard Easterlin’s groundbreaking work on happiness and economics. Contributions in the book show the relevance of the Easterlin Paradox to main areas, such as the relationship between income and happiness, the relationship between economic growth and well-being, conceptions of progress and development, design and evaluation of policies for well-being, and the use of happiness research to address welfare economics issues.  This book is unique in the sense that it gathers contributions from senior and top researchers in the economics of happiness, whom have played a central role in the consolidation of happiness economics, as well as promising young scholars, showing the current dynamism and consolidation of happiness economics.

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Leisure Beliefs and The Subjective Well-Being of Nations

Lucía Macchia & Ashley Whillans


The policies of most governments focus on improving material prosperity. Yet, wealth only weakly predicts well-being. It is therefore important to understand whether factors other than money shape the happiness of nations. Here, we construct a data set of 79 countries (= 220,000) and explore whether differences in the prioritization of time (leisure) vs. money (work) explain cross-country differences in happiness. Consistent with our predictions, countries whose citizens value leisure more than work report higher subjective well-being at the country and individual level. These effects hold in high and low GDP countries. Critically, we find evidence for a novel mechanism: people who value leisure over work are less negatively impacted by financial instability. Moving beyond individual welfare, the value that nations place on leisure vs. work fundamentally shapes happiness.

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Buying Happiness In an Unequal World: Rank of Income More Strongly Predicts Wellbeing in Unequal Countries

Lucía MacchiaAnke C. Plagnol & Nattavudh Powdthavee


Does income rank matter more for well-being in more unequal countries? Using more than 160,000 observations from 24 countries worldwide, we replicate previous studies and show that the ranked position of an individual’s income strongly predicts life evaluation and positive daily emotional experiences, whereas absolute and reference income generally have weak or no effects. Furthermore, we find the association between income rank and an individual’s well-being to be significantly larger in countries where income inequality, represented by the share of taxable income held by the top 1% of income earners, is high. These results are robust to using an alternative measure of income inequality and different reference group specifications. Our findings suggest that people in more unequal societies place greater weight on the pursuit of higher income ranks, which may contribute to enduring income inequality in places where greater well-being can be bought from moving up the income ladder.

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Building Trust to Face the COVID-19 Pandemic in Developing Countries

31 August 2020

Behavioural Scientist

Common measures used to contain COVID-19 in developed countries can be difficult — if not impossible — to replicate in developing countries. How can individuals practice handwashing without reliable access to clean water and soap, social distancing when living in multifamily households, or staying home when informal work provides vital daily income?

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Research: Why a Covid-19 World Feels Both Tiring and Hopeful for College Students

03 August 2020

Harvard Business Review

It is easy to see why students are exhausted: loved ones are getting sick, virtual classes are energy-draining, and it is hard to focus amidst worries about repaying loans and finding a job. From virtual graduation parties to postponed internships, students are contemplating career decisions — and COVID-19 is fundamentally altering what we desire from our jobs and lives.

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