Such is the popularity of the Eurovision Song Contest, held this year in Lisbon, Portugal, that participant countries now come from Israel and Australia. It is broadcast to millions of people in countries that don’t compete, such as the United States and Canada. Now, there may be reason for more countries to participate.
A new study suggests that when a nation takes part in Eurovision, it has a 13% chance of higher “life satisfaction” among its population compared with those who don’t. This life satisfaction may in turn benefit their physical and mental health, according Filippos Filipinos.
His team found that people were 4% more likely to be satisfied with their life for every increase of 10 places on the final score board — for example, if their country finished second rather than 12th.
However, doing badly in the contest was also associated with a greater increase in life satisfaction compared with not taking part at all. So, achieving “nul points” — a zero score — is not so bad after all.
The research backs up studies showing that hosting or succeeding in sporting fixtures like the US Super Bowl and the football World Cup can boost a city or nation’s well-being and productivity.
Ireland must have been particularly happy in the 1990s, when it won the contest seven times.
Previous high-profile wins include Swedish supergroup ABBA, who took the crown in 1974 with “Waterloo”; Bucks Fizz, who won for the UK with “Making Your Mind Up” in 1981; and Céline Dion, who won in 1988 for Switzerland.
Filippidis said more research was needed to confirm the association but added that the work showed the importance of considering the unintended consequences of events that reach a wide audience.
Winning was not associated with improved life satisfaction, but the higher the ranking per 10 places, the higher the odds of being “very satisfied.”
The scientists also compared data from countries that participated but did badly with those that didn’t take part at all. They found that taking part but finishing near the bottom of the table was associated with a 13% higher chance of life satisfaction compared with not taking part in the competition.
Filippidis said the results surprised him. “I thought there may be something there, but the results were quite consistent across countries.
“If England win the football World Cup, even if you are not interested in football, you will see that other people are happy talking about it and smiling. Being happy is contagious, and it can be the same for misery and bad moods.”