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28 febbraio 2007

Italians have the worst psychological health in Europe

Filippo Ceccarelli, su Repubblica di oggi, commenta quanto ha scritto sul Financial Times il Prof. Andrew Oswald. Eccone il testo originale.

By a large margin, Italians have the worst psychological health in Europe

By Andrew Oswald, ft.com

Published: February 26 2007 02:00 | Last updated: February 26 2007 02:00

From Prof Andrew Oswald.

Sir, You are right to point to Italy's economic problems ("Prodding Italy's centre towards a coalition", editorial February 23). But the best evidence that something has gone wrong inside that nation is not to be found with an economist's traditional weighing scales.

My colleague David Blanchflower and I have been examining the first data to measure consistently the quality of European countries' mental health from London to Berlin. This is clearly a complex task but one approach is to construct for each nation a so-called General Health Questionnaire score. A GHQ score is a measure of psychological distress, is commonly used by doctors and epidemiologists, and was designed originally for the early detection of psychiatric problems in individual patients.

We have done such a calculation for each country. The method amalgamates answers to a set of standardised GHQ questions that include: Have you recently lost much sleep over worry? Felt constantly under strain? Felt you could not overcome your difficulties? Been feeling unhappy and depressed? Been losing confidence in yourself? Been thinking of yourself as a worthless person?

Italy's numbers surprised us. It emerges by a large margin as the European country with the worst psychological health - namely, the most extreme GHQ distress score - out of the 16 nations on which we have large, random samples of citizens.

An equivalent point is visible elsewhere in the data. In Italy, only 11 per cent of randomly sampled people say they are very satisfied with their lives. This contrasts with the Danes at 66 per cent, the Dutch at 52 per cent, the Swedes at 38 per cent, and the British at 37 per cent.

Money can be useful to a country, but mental health seems a better benchmark.

Andrew Oswald,
Professor of Economics,  University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007




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