For Majority Family Gives Meaning to Life

What do you value most in life? Is it family, health, wealth or friends? Well, for most of the people family comes first. A recent study in 17 advanced economies across the world showed that family is a source of meaning than any other factor.

The new study by PEW Research Centre showed that 14 of the 17 advanced economies surveyed mentioned their family as a source of meaning in their lives than any other factors.


The researchers found that nearly four-in-ten adults (38 per cent) found meaning in their immediate or extended family, children or grandchildren, parenthood or other aspects of their familial relationships. It noted that around half or more people in Australia, Greece, New Zealand and the United States said that their family is something that makes their lives fulfilling, More affluent people are also somewhat more likely to mention family as a source of meaning in many of the public surveyed. The PEW Centre says that women are also often more likely than men to mention their families or children.


Coming up as one of the top three sources of meaning for people in around a third of the places surveyed, it is generally most prevalent among the European adults. The priority ranged from 15 per cent in the UK to 48 per cent in Spain. Uniquely, in Spain, health is the top source of meaning among all those coded. Roughly a fifth (17%) of South Koreans also see health as part of what gives life meaning – though this makes it the second most referenced topic there, behind only material well-being. In Germany, too, health is the second most cited source of meaning, and in the Netherlands, Greece, France and Japan, the topic ranks third.

Older respondents are more likely to bring up health in the context of what gives life meaning.


For the adults, work is one of the important aspects in life. In 12 of the 17 publics surveyed, work is among the top. In Spain, it ranks even higher than family and children. More adults who are educated also are likely to mention finding meaning in their work. In many cases, higher earners are twice as likely or more to mention their jobs as lower earners.


Across all places surveyed, younger adults ages 18 to 29 are more likely than older adults 65 and older to give prominence to education. This trend is mainly seen in Australia and Sweden, where 8% refer to learning in the context of meaning in their lives. Similar shares also bring up learning in New Zealand. In most places, education is roughly the 10th most mentioned source of meaning,


Australians are found more to bring up ties to friends or community (about 28 per cent). About a quarter also mention relationships with people outside the family in the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the UK. In each of these countries, community and friends are one of the top four factors mentioned. East Asian publics, on the other hand, are the least likely to mentions friends or community; no more than one-in-ten bring up these relationships in these places. In Taiwan, South Korea and Japan, community is not mentioned as a top source of meaning. It is always the younger adults (18 to 29) who give priority to friends and community than older counterparts.


Pets are a source of meaning for 4% of adults in New Zealand and for 3% of Americans, Australians and Britons. Outside of these particular countries, very few in most places – and none at all in both South Korea and Taiwan – mention their animals as a source of meaning.


The degree of happiness with respect to nature varies from a low of one per cent in Japan to a high of 14 per cent in New Zealand. Nature and the outdoors is an important factor among the 10 most common sources of meaning cited in  Sweden, Taiwan and the UK. Nature ranks relatively low in Japan, Australia, Canada, France Singapore and the US.


Americans stand out for mentioning religion most frequently, and it is the fifth most frequently mentioned topic. New Zealanders, who mention religion with the second highest frequency, only bring up religion 5% of the time. No more than 1% in France, Sweden, Belgium, South Korea and Japan refer religion when defining meaning in life. For Swedes, this makes faith the least mentioned topic, while for South Koreans, faith is the most mentioned topic.


Across the 17 publics surveyed, a median of 10% mention finding meaning in personal hobbies and recreational activities ranging from a high of 22% in the UK to a low of 3% in South Korea. In the UK, hobbies are the third most commonly cited source of meaning, following only family and friends. In Greece, Japan and Taiwan, hobbies rank in the top five sources.


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