Skip to content

Research Paper HEDG Working Papers 17/08

Can clean air make you happy? Examining the effect of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) on life satisfaction


Publication date

Mar 2017


In order to estimate the welfare effects of exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2), we combine life satsifaction data from the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) and UK Household Longitudinal Survey (UKHLS) with detailed air quality records held by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). To address endogeneity concerns, we linked these with a variety of georeferenced datasets capturing differences in economic, social and environmental conditions across neighbourhoods. We also took advantage of the panel nature of our data by employing individual fixed effects. Our results suggest a significant and negative association between mean annual ambient NO2 and life satisfaction, and moreover that these effects are substantive and comparable to that of many ’big hitting’ life events.


Environmental Sociology, Area Effects, Geography, Science And Technology, Well Being, and Health


Related publications

  1. Air pollution as bad for wellbeing as partner's death, say researchers

    Sarah J. Knight and Peter Howley

  2. Air pollution can affect your health and mind as severely as the death of your partner

    Sarah J. Knight and Peter Howley

  3. Nitrogen dioxide as damaging as partner death or job loss

    Sarah J. Knight and Peter Howley

  4. Traffic fumes as bad for happiness as bereavement or divorce, study suggests

    Sarah J. Knight and Peter Howley

  5. What is the impact of air pollution on life satisfaction for people living in England?

    Sarah Knight and Peter Howley

    1. Environmental Sociology
    2. Area Effects
    3. Psychology
    4. Geography
    5. Well Being


Research home

Research home


Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest