Mobile, Happiness and Wellbeing!

Mobile Happiness
Mobile makes people happy and mobile with internet makes people happier! An extensive global survey conducted by GSMA-Gallup provides empirical evidence for this long held belief!

Craving to own a mobile is now almost part of our genes. Toddlers who can’t even talk or walk get infatuated by this handheld device. They, in fact, make an instant connect, far more to them than what toys did to toddlers just a generation ago! To top, internet has raised the bar as it vastly expands the horizon of what one can do with this ubiquitous handheld device! Ads galore depicting the joy of mobile and internet ownership! But is it simply the utility which makes this device irresistible or does it actually impact people’s inner bearings too? Is a man (no gender bias intended) with mobile a happy person and is the man with mobile with internet connection even happier? We had all suspected these assumptions to be true and now it is backed by empirical evidence too!

GSMA which represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting nearly 800 operators with more than 300 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, together with Gallup, the leading research body, conducted World Poll in 2016 to discover the correlation between mobile ownership, internet connection and people’s wellbeing. The full results are out in public domain now and here are the findings.

The Rise of Mobile 

Based on World Poll results representing more than 95% of the world’s population, Gallup estimates that 82% of adults worldwide personally had a mobile phone in 2016. A majority, 55%, say they have a mobile phone but no landline phone in their homes, while 27% have both a mobile and landline phone. These results vary considerably by economic development level, but even among low-income countries, a majority of residents (56%) now have a mobile phone.

Though internet access remains less prevalent than mobile phone ownership in many regions, a slight majority of residents worldwide (51%) now say they have access to the internet, whether on a computer or mobile device. The percentage who have both a mobile phone and internet access is only slightly lower at 48%, while just 3% worldwide have internet access but no mobile. Again, these results vary by economic development as 77% of residents in high-income countries have both a mobile phone and internet access compared to just 15% in low-income countries.

Subjective Well-Being 

Subjective Well-Being (SWB) measures peoples’ perceptions of the quality of their lives and experiences. These metrics have been developed to complement other indicators of well-being such as income, education and health. The rapidly expanding body of research on SWB has led to a growing consensus that it can be measured in ways that are both valid and reliable – a number of government agencies and international organisations now incorporate SWB measures among their benchmarks for social progress, including the OECD and the United Nations.

Experiential Well-Being (Affect Balance) 

The World Poll’s experiential well-being indicators – composed of six questions on respondents’ emotions (or “affect”) the day before the interview – have also been largely stable over the past ten years.

At the global level there are significant differences in Affect Balance scores by respondents’ level of connectivity, as those with a mobile phone and internet access have significantly higher net positive emotions than those with neither. Further, mobile phone ownership is associated with higher Affect Balance scores even when internet access is held constant.

The Impact of Mobile on People’s Happiness and Well-Being

Mobile phone ownership supplemented with internet access is associated with an improvement in peoples’ lives, as evidenced by increases in both average life evaluations and net positive emotions.

In the absence of internet access those who have a mobile phone give, on average, similar life ratings as those without one. However, in some regions a modest increase in average life evaluations is associated with mobile phone ownership only (i.e. without internet access) – including low-income countries, where there has historically been a lack of existing widespread fixed line communications infrastructure and where governments, non-governmental organisations and mobile operators have sought to provide vital services and information via cellular only phones, which remain more prevalent than internet-enabled phones on much of the continent.

Mobile phone ownership without internet access is associated with net positive emotions, particularly in upper middle income countries, and in specific regions including East Asia, Post-Soviet Eurasia, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Latin America.

The combined effect of mobile phone ownership and internet access is significant for both Life Evaluation and Affect Balance, and consistent across all model specifications. This is particularly true with regard to Life Evaluation, and the effects are particularly strong in certain regions including Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe and South Asia. The results are generally consistent with the proposition of a greater well-being dividend in areas where mobile information technologies represent a greater impact in terms of access to new services.

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