Beyond God and Government: The Role of Personal Control in Supporting Citizens’ Well-Being in the Face of Changing Economy and Rising Inequality


  • Thuy-vy Nguyen
  • Jonathon McPhetres
  • Edward L. Deci


Based on previous theoretical models, the present research investigated three different psychological constructs (religious belief, trust in government, and the experience of personal control) as moderators of the link between country’s economic growth (i.e., Gross Domestic Product) and income inequality (i.e., Gini) on health, happiness, and life satisfaction. Using a large cross-national data set (N = 490,579), we found that personal control predicted health, happiness, and life satisfaction above and beyond reliance on God and trust in government. Religious belief predicted greater health and buffered the negative effect of income inequality on health only in wealthy economies, but yielded negative correlations with health in poor economies. The associations between personal control and trust in government with well-being outcomes were consistently positive across different levels of countries’ GDP and Gini. Further, personal control also served a compensatory function by buffering the negative effect of income inequality in wealthy economies.