Decline in America’s happiness brought on by social capital drop

Based on General Social Survey (GSS) gold-standard data from 1975-2004, Steven Bartolini and 2 other researchers presenting  a paper at Italy’s Siena University blamed America’s decline in happiness on declines in social capital (our civic and social engagement).

Reuters reports that they “concluded a person with no friends or social relations with neighbours would have to earn $320,000 more each year than someone who did to enjoy the same level of happiness.

“And while the average American paycheck had risen over the past 30 years, its happiness-boosting benefits were more than offset by a drop in the quality of relationships over the period.

“‘The main cause is a decline in the so-called social capital — increased loneliness, increased perception of others as untrustworthy and unfair,’ said Stefano Bartolini, one of the authors of the study.”

For more information on the decline in social capital see Bowling Alone.

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5 responses to “Decline in America’s happiness brought on by social capital drop

  1. When will we learn? ‘Love your neighbour – as yourself’

  2. I see a direct correlation between increased loneliness and the dog pampering fad. More and more people are relying on dogs for companionship, viewing these animals as people. Money is no object when it comes to pampering their dogs, regardless it seems, of the dog owner’s income. There’s a growing number of pet owners who like their dog or cat better than people, and feel more comfortable around the animal than their fellow man. The result? Misanthropism, isolation, and unhappiness.

  3. Interesting study and I agree with some of the findings.
    People in America are far less trusting then prior Generations but the Italians did not get the economic part right nor the fact our Government is doing everything in their power to divide us both economically and mentally.
    American incomes in 2007 adjusted for inflation are far less the in the 1970’s.
    The Gini-index in America is approaching 50 while in the 1970’s it was in the mid-30’s.
    The T.V. programming builds mistrust and envy among Americans showing Death,rape,Destruction,etc on one hand coupled with thier adds of Mercedez and Million dollar homes on the other(which most Americans should have by the age of 30 in their opinion)!
    While our cost of living is skyrocketing and wages flat coupled with the fact they(mega-rich)teach us to compete with each other, don’t trust each other and shut your mouths would help complete the picture to a degree but it would take an entire book to list all the reasons in detail.
    Bottom line:
    America is nolonger a Democracy, 8 million people in correctional system for example while it was 1 million in 1980. We could list the Patriot Act as another non-democratic bill passed which destroys our bill of rights. A justice system totally geared for the rich and so on.
    Economically we are being hammered-in 2006 the U.S. economy added 6 dollars in new debts for every dollar of GDP gain, meaning we are a huge debtor nation being bought by other foreign interests.
    Our Current Account deficit is approaching 1 trillion dollars annually for example.
    This has all been done with the Corporations and Government working together of course and doing everything in their power to divide and conquor which the Italian Study for some mysterious reason failed to mention along with the rest of what I said.
    The Italians did have some very good points and they are right on many points but Half-Truths because they are not including the entire picture!

    • Yeah, I think you are absolutely correct.

      More and more it seems like me and everyone else I know lives in an oppressive and bleak America where you can’t trust anybody and a fight with your wife can get you locked up or your kids taken away.

      I would like to add a few more factors to the list though of things bringing us down- maybe this is only personal but I don’t think so:

      1. We are actually far less healthy than before- obesity rates are skyrocketing.
      2. People in psychological distress are increasingly being given psychiatric drugs which work in the short term but actually have profound psychological and physical effects in the long term.

      3. We are increasingly and acutely aware of the imminent dangers of declining oil reserves and environmental threats, but effectively powerless to do anything about it.

  4. Pingback: Want to be happy? Get connected. « Social Capital Blog

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