Happier together. Social cohesion and subjective well‐being in Europe

Jan Delhey, Georgi Dragolov
Published Online:
13 Feb 2015
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 51 Issue 3

Additional Options

Despite mushrooming research on “social” determinants of subjective well‐being (SWB), little is known as to whether social cohesion as a collective property is among the key societal conditions for human happiness. This article fills this gap in investigating the importance of living in a cohesive society for citizens' SWB. For 27 European Union countries, it combines the newly developed Bertelsmann Foundation's Cohesion Index with individual well‐being data on life evaluation and psychological functioning as surveyed in the recent European Quality of Life Survey. The main results from multi‐level analyses are as follows. First, Europeans are indeed happier and psychologically healthier in more cohesive societies. Second, all three core domains of cohesion increase individuals' SWB. Third, citizens in the more affluent part of Europe feel the positivity of social cohesion more consistently than those in the less affluent part. Finally, within countries, cohesion is good for the SWB of resource‐rich and resource‐poor groups alike. Our findings also shed new light on the ongoing debate on economic progress and quality of life: what makes citizenries of affluent societies happier is, in the first place, their capacity to create togetherness and solidarity among their members—in other words, cohesion.

© 2015 International Union of Psychological Science