Ignore those twinges of cynicism and embrace your inner patriot this weekend, as studies regularly show that nationalism makes people happy.
However, how happy you feel also depends on what you’re taking pride in, noted researchers earlier this year.
In a report for Psychological Science, Matthew Wright, a political scientist at American University, and Tim Reeskens, a sociologist from Catholic University in Belgium found that more national pride correlated with greater personal wellbeing.
But they also noticed that those individuals who connected nationalism with respect for a country’s institutions and values, rather than race or religion, were the most content.
Reeskens and Wright divided people who felt national pride into two categories: ethnic nationalists and civic nationalists.
Ethnic nationalists saw ancestry—typically expressed in racial or religious terms—as key to defining their sense of identity. Whereas civic nationalists required only respect for a country’s institutions and laws to gain a sense of belonging.
According to a statement, the researchers found that ‘civic nationalists’ were on the whole happier than any other kind of patriot.
Wright explained: “It’s fine to say pride in your country makes you happy - but what kind of pride are we talking about? That turns out to make a lot of difference.”
The authors analyzed the responses of 40,677 individuals from 31 countries, drawn from the 2008 wave of the cross-national European Values Study.
They found that the wellbeing of the proudest ethnic nationalists’ barely surpassed that of people with the lowest level of civic pride.
“There’s been a renaissance of arguments from political theorists and philosophers that a strong sense of national identity has payoffs in terms of social cohesion, which bolsters support for welfare and other redistributive policies,” says Wright.
“We’ve finally gotten around to testing these theories.”
The conclusion: “You have to look at how people define their pride.”
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