For whom money matters less: social connectedness as a resilience resource in the UK
The current literature shows that both absolute and relative income are important for happiness, but there is little work emphasising how the strength of the relationship is dependent on personal and social factors. I hypothesise that social connectedness influences the money-happiness relationship because the effect of money is in part felt through the acquisition of social status, whereas status (and associated psychological benefits such as self-worth) can alternatively be gained through social connectedness. In particular, it is theorised that ‘weak ties’ when co-existing with good quality informal ties have a separable and additional benefit to subjective well-being, and that it is the socially isolated who have the most to gain from doing well financially. Social connectedness is conceptualised as a ‘resilience resource’ which has a buffering effect on subjective well-being. Data from the British Household Panel Survey are used, first to establish a measurement schema of connectedness using latent class analysis, and secondly in a multilevel model of life satisfaction with observations from seven consecutive years nested within individuals. The results show that connectedness makes a larger difference to satisfaction in times of financial stress, and that the satisfaction of the socially isolated can ‘catch up’ to some degree with those with larger networks when things are going well financially. The findings also confirm that those for whom money makes the smallest contribution to happiness are those with both strong and weak ties. Weak ties have an additional benefit compared to having strong ties alone. In summary, connectedness has the power to narrow the well-being gap that exists between times of financial struggle and times of relative comfort. It suggests that the psychological benefits of social integration have the capacity to displace money as a source of status and self-worth, and similarly that the importance of money may be exaggerated where these psychological gains are not available through other domains of life.
Social Indicators Research
Volume and page numbers
125 , 509 -535
Open Access; © The Author(s) 2015; This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and the source are credited.