The social context of well-being

John F. Helliwell, Robert D. Putnam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Large samples of data from the World Values Survey, the US Benchmark Survey and a comparable Canadian survey are used to estimate equations designed to explore the social context of subjective evaluations of well-being, of happiness, and of health. Social capital, as measured by the strength of family, neighbourhood, religious and community ties, is found to support both physical health and subjective well-being. Our new evidence confirms that social capital is strongly linked to subjective well-being through many independent channels and in several different forms. Marriage and family, ties to friends and neighbours, workplace ties, civic engagement (both individually and collectively), trustworthiness and trust: all appear independently and robustly related to happiness and life satisfaction, both directly and through their impact on health.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1435-1446
Number of pages11
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1449
Publication statusPublished - 29 Sept 2004


  • Happiness
  • Life satisfaction
  • Social capital
  • Subjective well-being
  • Suicide
  • Trust


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