Journal of Public Health, 1-10


Closing the “happiness gap” by closing the wealth gap: the role of wealth on life satisfaction between east and west-Germans



In Germany there is a large wealth gap between East and West Germans as well as a gap in life satisfaction, with people in East Germany reporting to be less satisfied. This paper intends to shed light on the role of the different levels of wealth and their association with life satisfaction. On a wider scale, this paper examines psychological consequences of wealth inequality between large societal groups.


Longitudinal data from the years 2007, 2012, and 2017 of the German Socio-Economic Panel (GSOEP) with a sample size of N = 5066 (Nfemale = 2522, Nwest = 3756, mage2007 = 50.46) was used. To test our hypothesis, multiple linear regression models as well as a fixed-effects regression model were run. Furthermore, to examine the development of wealth distribution between different birth cohorts in East and West Germany a latent growth curve model was calculated.


Net-worth was found to be a highly significant predictor for life satisfaction. This holds true for variance between respondents as well as for individual change over time within respondents. Additionally, the results show that the wealth gap between East and West Germans in total as well as within most of the birth cohorts increased.


Due to their socialistic history and the related obstacles in acquiring wealth as well as the unbalanced distribution of GDR-assets after the reunification, East Germans are significantly less wealthy than West Germans. This has consequences on the mental well-being and the life satisfaction of East Germans.

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Kasinger, C., Braunheim, L., Beutel, M. & Brähler, E.