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Virtual Life Satisfaction


  • Edward Castronova,

    1. Indiana University, USA
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  • Gert G. Wagner

    1. Berlin University of Technology (TUB), Germany
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    • * Castronova: Professor of Telecommunications and Cognitive Science, Indiana University, USA, Wagner: Director, German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin); Research Fellow, CESifo, Munich, Germany; Professor, Berlin University of Technology (TUB), Germany, We thank Mark W. Bell for research assistance and Wim Kalmijn for help with the ‘Veenhoven-Kalmijn Transformation’. Part of this study was conducted in a virtual environment created with funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Grant N0. 01UW0706 – PT-DLR.


We study life satisfaction data from the 2005 World Values Survey and a 2009 survey of users of the virtual world Second Life. Second Life users do not have the same demographic profile as the general population, but the differences are not as large as we expected. The mechanisms and causes of life satisfaction seem to be similar in the two samples. Among Second Life users, satisfaction with their virtual life is higher than satisfaction with their real life. Regression analysis indicates that people in certain life situations, such as unemployment, gain more life satisfaction from ‘switching’ to the virtual world than from changing their real-life circumstances. In other words, an unemployed person can become happier by visiting Second Life rather than finding a job. Correspondingly, problems in real life are positive predictors of intense use of virtual life.