Social Well-Being: Research and Policy Recommendations
Diener, E., Biswas-Diener, R., et al. (2018). Social well-being: Research and policy recommendations. In J. F. Helliwell, R. Layard, & J. Sachs (Eds.), Global Happiness Policy Report: 2018. (Pp. 129-159). Global Happiness Council.
“What is the recipe for well-being, sometimes popularly referred to as “happiness”? The last few decades have seen dramatic increases in research attention to this topic, and the results point to some clear conclusions. Although there are many factors that influence emotional and psychological well-being, high quality social relationships emerge time and again as particularly important. The people highest in well-being are those who enjoy the benefits of robust social connections such as trust and social support.
Conversely, those who are lonely, or are otherwise estranged in their relationships, report lower levels of well-being.
Social connectedness is known to benefit health in a major way that surpasses the benefits of other known public health factors such as exercise, avoiding obesity, and not smoking. Conversely, negative social relationships are the source of major societal ills. Because policy makers have
a specific interest in creating socially cohesive communities, we explain why well-being in general—and social well-being specifically— should be a primary concern of policy makers and leaders. Although policy makers often think of personal relationships as strictly personal affairs that fall outside the policy domain, in fact government programs and policies can have a large impact on this sphere of life. In this paper, we address a number of policy relevant areas that can potentially enhance collective well- being. These include 1) urban design and zoning that can promote social inclusion and happy neighborhoods; 2) policies aimed at reducing public and private corruption and improving transparency; and 3) supporting healthy family relationships, for example through the prevention and treatment of family-related violence.
We conclude by making a number of policy recommendations that span the range of national, regional, and municipal governments. We stress the importance of using well-being measurement to serve as a guide for locally appropriate policy making and as a metric of success.
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