Under fire, but still happy

Under fire, but still happy

It's not the terror but the weather that brings us down

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A cloudy sky is more of a downer than the threat of terror attacks (photo credit: Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)
A cloudy sky is more of a downer than the threat of terror attacks (photo credit: Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)

Terror doesn’t bring down Israelis’ mood as much as bad weather does, according to a recent report in the London School of Economics journal Economica.

Figures showed that while people remained optimistic under the threat of terror attacks, bad weather depressed them.

“People think that terror has a large effect on happiness and satisfaction with life, but it seems that it doesn’t,” Asaf Zussman, assistant professor at the Economics Department at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and one of the authors of the report, told the Times of Israel. “It is true that this is counter-intuitive.”

The research focused on the results of the annual Central Bureau of Statistics surveys from 2002 to 2004, when Israel was in the midst of a wave of Palestinian terror attacks that killed more than 780 people, 520 of whom were civilians. A total of 22,000 responses to questions on individuals’ feelings of happiness and general satisfaction with their quality of life were recorded. The researchers cross-referenced the results with the dates of terror attacks and found that over 80 percent of the Jewish population maintained its overall satisfaction with life, a figure comparable with the average in Europe.

However, by making a similar cross-reference with the Meteorological Office records of the same period, researchers found that unseasonable weather, such as a cloudy day, had a more substantial impact on people’s mood.

The reason for the apparent stoicism was hard to explain and open to interpretation, Zussman admitted, suggesting that perhaps by 2002 the population had become accustomed to the suicide bombings, which had began in earnest in 2000 and reached a peak in 2002. Alternatively, people believed that the government would find a way to deal with the terror threat, Zussman speculated. But ultimately he had no clear explanation.

Among the Arab population, the figures showed that terror attacks did have a detrimental affect on feelings of well-being. Zussman said the cause for that is easier to identify: Following a terror attack Israeli Arabs have an increased anxiety of discrimination as well as concerns that an IDF response in the West Bank or Gaza might injure family or friends.

Zussman stressed that the report doesn’t mean to suggest that terror victims and those close to them are not traumatized, but rather that the overall population fares better than expected.

“For people who are actually there, there is no doubt that they are affected, but it is not the same for people in another town,” he said. “There was a drop in the local satisfaction numbers when an attack occurred in the town in which they lived.”

Zussman noted that statisticians are often wary of surveys that analyze what people say and think as opposed to what they actually do. Nonetheless, the conclusion remains, he said, that terror doesn’t seem to impact the Israeli population’s overall satisfaction with its quality of life.

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