Eurovision’s no ‘Taboo’ when it comes to health

Imperial College doctors say Eurovision success is linked to greater life satisfaction rates in Europe

Best of times? Alas, Christabelle failed to qualify for the final this week
Best of times? Alas, Christabelle failed to qualify for the final this week

Could It Be, This Time? What If We?

Sound familiar? Yes, these are the words every Maltese national utters in the days running up to the most important night of the national calendar.

It’s been an On Again, Off Again love affair with the song contest that means More Than Love to the Maltese, such is their Desire to clinch the hallowed ESC trophy. However, if the mere mention of the caterwauling high camp of Eurovision gives you Vertigo[Editorial note: that’s enough titles, we get it], two Imperial College doctors have some good news.

According to their analysis of Eurobarometer surveys on life satisfaction from 33 European countries and suicide mortality data for years 2009 to 2015, high or improved rankings in the ESC are associated with an increase in life satisfaction and a decrease in suicide.

And winning is not even important: Coming Home (sorry) after a terrible performance was associated with greater life satisfaction compared to not competing at all.

“The good news for participating countries is that just competing at the ESC is associated with higher life satisfaction among the population,” say doctors Filippos Filippidis and Anthony Laverty in their study published in the BMC Public Health journal, who say further research into how such international competitions may impact public health is needed. “Mental health can be influenced by multiple factors, a complexity that is often ignored when considering changes at the population level. Our study shows that the meaning of health-in-all-policies may extend beyond what is normally considered public health domain.”

In what is believed to be the first study to estimate the association between the ESC and life satisfaction, the data shows self-reported life satisfaction improved for every 10 places of better performance in the ESC.

Eurovision rankings may reflect the international position of a country within the world, and voting tends to be concentrated around clusters of neighbouring states that exchange votes based on cultural, geographic, economic and political factors. 

Filippidis and Laverty argue that in this sense the ESC might be a reflection of alliances with other countries, as well as of the political and economic conditions in the country.

“Therefore, ESC success could be a proxy of favourable socioeconomic conditions, which in turn can… positively influence life satisfaction and mental health.

“Eurovision is a stage where representations of the participating nations can reach a wide international audience hence the performance in the contest may be perceived as a judgment – by an international audience – of nationally defining characteristics [or…] a sign of a country’s strength at the international stage.”

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