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Social connections

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Beyond the intrinsic pleasure that people derive from spending time with others, social connections have positive spill‐over effects for individual and societal well‐being. People with extensive and supportive networks have better health, tend to live longer, and are more likely to be employed. At a society‐wide level, social connections can generate shared values ‐ such as trust in others and norms of reciprocity ‐ which influence a range of outcomes, including economic growth, democratic participation and crime. The indicators used in this chapter to measure different aspects of social connections refer to social network support and to the frequency of social contact. Overall, personal social networks are relatively strong in OECD countries, with most people seeing friends and/or relatives on a regular basis and reporting that they have someone to count on in times of need. However, there are significant differences between different socio‐economic and demographic groups, with the old, the poor and the less‐educated having weaker social support networks. There are also wide crosscountry differences in levels of interpersonal trust ‐ one key indicator of the outcomes of social connections. Measuring social connections remains challenging, however, and more work is needed to develop comparable measures in this field.

Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: October 1, 2011


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