We analyse subjective experiences of energy poverty to address the limitations of existing observable indicators as evidence for policy. We investigate the linkage between self-reported energy affordability and life satisfaction, health and economic inequality. A large-scale survey of 100,956 respondents across 37 nations shows that energy affordability concerns individuals in both developing and developed nations. Self-reported (perceived) values do not necessarily follow previous research and vary according to regional, economic, development and cultural factors. Contrasting this evidence with national-level data, such as healthy life expectancy and government spending on health and welfare, we identify associations between self-reported outcomes, income levels and national policy. Although national welfare spending can reduce the perceived economic gap, high income is not necessarily associated with better perceived satisfaction, health or economic outcomes. Enhancing energy access may lead to improved health outcomes in the most marginalized nations; however, lifestyle and cultural factors also play a role. Although the outcomes of less-developed nations can likely improve through development aid from more-developed nations, our results show that cultural and other factors underpin satisfaction in developing nations, which experience comparatively poorer life satisfaction. We identified that some nations had superior outcomes for health and life satisfaction despite lower income levels. This highlights the need for further research to uncover non-income-based factors that underlie life satisfaction and health, such as community connectedness or familial factors.
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The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
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This research was funded by a Grant-in-Aid for Specially Promoted Research (grant no. 26000001) by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, and by the Strategic Research Program and Environmental Economics Research Fund of the Japanese Ministry of the Environment.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
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