Social Indicators Research

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Online ISSN: 1573-0921


Print ISSN: 0303-8300


Fig. 1 Random slope model of transformed FAS and predicted life satisfaction score with separate lines for each country: Fixed and random effects for this model are presented in Table 3 (Model 1) 
Table 2 Multilevel linear model for life satisfaction score, ML estimates (se) 
Table 3 Multilevel linear model for life satisfaction score, ML estimates (se) 
Table 4 Multilevel logistic model for binary high/low life satisfaction, MCMC estimates (posterior SD) 
National Income and Income Inequality, Family Affluence and Life Satisfaction Among 13 year Old Boys and Girls: A Multilevel Study in 35 Countries
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November 2011


176 Reads



Wilma Vollebergh




Adolescence is a critical period where many patterns of health and health behaviour are formed. The objective of this study was to investigate cross-national variation in the relationship between family affluence and adolescent life satisfaction, and the impact of national income and income inequality on this relationship. Data from the 2006 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children: WHO collaborative Study (N = 58,352 across 35 countries) were analysed using multilevel linear and logistic regression analyses for outcome measures life satisfaction score and binary high/low life satisfaction. National income and income inequality were associated with aggregated life satisfaction score and prevalence of high life satisfaction. Within-country socioeconomic inequalities in life satisfaction existed even after adjustment for family structure. This relationship was curvilinear and varied cross-nationally. Socioeconomic inequalities were greatest in poor countries and in countries with unequal income distribution. GDP (PPP US$) and Gini did not explain between country variance in socioeconomic inequalities in life satisfaction. The existence of, and variation in, within-country socioeconomic inequalities in adolescent life satisfaction highlights the importance of identifying and addressing mediating factors during this life stage.

Technical quality of government and average happiness in 2006
Democratic quality of government and average happiness in 2006
Technical quality of government and inequality in happiness in 2006
Democratic quality of government and inequality in happiness in 2006
Correlations between indicators of government quality in 138 nations around 2005
Government and Happiness in 130 Nations: Good Governance Fosters Higher Level and More Equality of Happiness

May 2011


1,405 Reads

There are substantial differences in happiness in nations. Average happiness on scale 0-10 ranges in 2006 from 3.24 in Togo to 8.00 in Denmark and the inequality of happiness, as measured by the standard deviation, ranges from 0.85 in Laos to 3.02 in the Dominican Republic. Much of these differences are due to quality of governance and in particular to 'technical' quality. Once a minimum level is reached, rising technical quality boosts average happiness proportionally. Good governance does not only produce a higher level of happiness, but also lowers inequality of happiness among citizens. The relation between good governance and inequality of happiness is not linear, but follows a bell shaped pattern, inequality of happiness being highest in nations where the quality of government is at a medium level. The relation between the size of government and average happiness depends heavily on the quality of government; good-big government adds to happiness but bad-big government does not. Possible explanations of these findings are discussed.

Table 1 Descriptive statistics of most important variables 
Table 2 Regression of leisure participation (frequency) on year of measurement (entries are unstandardized coefficients) 
Table 3 Regression analyses of proportions associational, informal and individual activities on determinants Proportion associational a Proportion informal b Proportion individual c 
Dissolution of Associational Life? Testing the Individualization and Informalization Hypotheses on Leisure Activities in The Netherlands Between 1975 and 2005

January 2011


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In this paper we examine whether individualization and informalization processes have occurred in the field of leisure in The Netherlands, by analyzing the social context of a wide range of activities between 1975 and 2005. We find that the choice of a particular leisure context is dependent on education, gender, year of birth, age and time pressure. We find evidence for informalization, but-contrary to popular belief-not for individualization. The informalization trend follows a pattern of cohort replacement, and is also caused by a rise in the average education level in the population. Our findings imply that research on civil society, community and social capital should not only be concerned with membership rates, but also with participation in alternative social contexts.

Table 5 continued 
Table 5 Data sources 
Inequality in Human Development: An Empirical Assessment of 32 Countries

June 2010


181 Reads

One of the most frequent critiques of the HDI is that is does not take into account inequality within countries in its three dimensions. In this paper, we apply a simply approach to compute the three components and the overall HDI for quintiles of the income distribution. This allows a comparison of the level in human development of the poor with the level of the non-poor within countries, but also across countries. This is an application of the method presented in Grimm et al. (World Development 36(12):2527-2546, 2008) to a sample of 21 low and middle income countries and 11 industrialized countries. In particular the inclusion of the industrialized countries, which were not included in the previous work, implies to deal with a number of additional challenges, which we outline in this paper. Our results show that inequality in human development within countries is high, both in developed and industrialized countries. In fact, the HDI of the lowest quintiles in industrialized countries is often below the HDI of the richest quintile in many middle income countries. We also find, however, a strong overall negative correlation between the level of human development and inequality in human development.

Fig. 1 Conceptual framework of 'Green and Happiness Index' developed by the Thai National Economic and Board. Source: NESDB 2007  
Table 1 Descriptive data of the cohort members, 'life satisfaction as a whole' and PWI scores
Table 2 Personal Wellbeing Domains by cohort member characteristics
Table 2 continued
Table 3 Domains inter-item correlations
Personal Wellbeing Index in a National Cohort of 87,134 Thai Adults

September 2010


1,528 Reads

Satisfaction with life correlates with other measures of subjective wellbeing and correlates predictably with individual characteristics and overall health. Social indicators and subjective wellbeing measures are necessary to evaluate a society and can be used to produce national indicators of happiness. This study therefore aims to help close the gap in wellbeing data for Thailand. The specific aims are to: (1) calculate the Thai PWI and domain scores using a large scale sample; (2) examine the level of life satisfaction of Thais when compared to international standards; (3) examine the Thai PWI and domains in relation to demographic, socioeconomic, and geographic characteristics. Our report derives from the findings on the Personal Wellbeing Index (PWI) in a large national cohort of Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University adult students living all over Thailand (n = 87,134). This Thai cohort had an overall PWI of 70.0 on a scale from 0 to 100 which is consistent with Western populations. The 'spirituality and religion' domain had the highest average score. 'Standard of living', 'future security' and 'achievement in life' made the largest contribution to overall 'satisfaction in life as a whole'. These domains also show a positive trend with increasing age, being married, higher income, more education, more household assets, and rural residence. The PWI will be an important tool for policymakers to understand the subjective wellbeing of population groups especially as Thailand is undergoing a political and economic transition.

Table 2 Multinomial logistic regression analysis on acceptance of voluntary childlessness: Net intra-cohort and cohort replacement effects, 1965-1996
Relative number of live born childrena (fertility behaviour) and acceptance of voluntary childlessnessb (fertility attitudes) by survey year. aRelative number of live born children: The number of live born babies per thousand of the average number of women aged 15–50 in the period of observation. Live born child: A baby showing some sign of life after birth, regardless of the duration of pregnancy. Source Statistics Netherlands at Cultural Change in the Netherlands (CCN) surveys
GDP per capita and the relative number of nonreligious people by year. Source Statistics Netherlands at
The Public Acceptance of Voluntary Childlessness in the Netherlands: From 20 to 90 per cent in 30 years

October 2010


193 Reads

Within a relatively short period of 30 years, public acceptance of voluntary childlessness has increased enormously in the Netherlands. In this paper, we address two research questions, which we answer with data from 13 waves of the repeated cross-sectional survey Cultural Change in the Netherlands (CCN, 1965-1996). First, we investigate to what extent the increasing permissiveness is due to cohort replacement and to intra-cohort change. We find that between 1965 and 1980 the change is primarily due to intra-cohort (period) effects, whereas cohort replacement has become more important since 1980. Second, we address the question which social categories constitute the 10% of the population who do not accept voluntary childlessness. Church attendance-and not religiosity or religious socialization-turns out to be the most important factor. Low levels of income and education also negatively affect the acceptance of voluntary childless.

Variability of Quality of Life at Small Scales: Addis Ababa, Kirkos Sub-City

August 2010


6,476 Reads

Urban quality of life (QoL) is becoming a subject of urban research mainly for western and Asian countries. Such attention is due to an increasing awareness of the contribution of QoL studies in identifying intervention areas and in monitoring urban planning policies. However, most studies are carried out at city or country level that can average out details at small scales. In this paper we present a case study where the urban QoL at small scale is measured and its variability is evaluated for Kirkos sub-city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The study is based on data from a household survey and some secondary data. Geographic information system (GIS) is applied to extract proximity information (e.g., distance to school facilities) and visualize the spatial distribution of QoL. Statistical methods such as factor analysis are applied to establish an index of objective QoL while coefficient of variation is applied to evaluate spatial variability of subjective QoL. The results of this study reveal that the subjective quality of life (QoL) scores show large variation in the sub-city. The mean QoL score also indicates that the respondents in the sub-city, on average, are dissatisfied with the quality of their life. Respondents with higher education level and income are on average, however, more satisfied with their QoL in the sub-city. The results reveal that the lower the QoL in the Kebele, the larger the variability of QoL within the Kebele. Such indicates how aggregation at large scale can average out the variation of QoL at small scales. The results reveal the presence of QoL variability at small scales. The comparison between the subjective and the objective QoL at Kebele level indicated a state of dissonance, adaptation, deprivation or well-being. Such results suggest that the two measures do not always indicate the same level of QoL.

Male attitudes toward abortion: An analysis of urban survey data

April 1990


66 Reads

Utilizing data from Edmonton Area Surveys of 1977, 1984, and 1987, this paper examines the attitudes of Canadian men toward the contentious issue of abortion. Respondents were presented with various different circumstances for abortion and asked to indicate the conditions in which they feel women ought to or ought not to be allowed to obtain a legal abortion. Findings reveal that attitudes toward abortion vary greatly depending upon the criteria for abortion. Endangering the mother's health elicited the most favourable attitude toward abortion between 1977 and 1987. The findings also depict a slight trend toward greater opposition to legalized abortion on the grounds of possible birth defect, while the approval of legal abortion on the grounds of rape increased marginally during the ten-year period. The paper goes further to examine socio-demographic variations in attitudes toward abortion. Some of the neglected issues that will likely make future Canadian abortion legislation impotent are also discussed.

Variable predictors of attitudes toward the legalization of abortion

July 1988


27 Reads

This paper updates and expands the study of abortion attitudes originally done by Blake and del Pinal (1980). Since 1978, the last year examined by those authors, the American public's approval of the legalization of abortion initially increased but then dropped to the lowest level ever recorded by the General Social Survey. Religion, as coded by Blake and del Pinal, and education continue to be strong predictors of abortion attitudes as are individual's beliefs about premarital sex, divorce, and euthanasia. A major finding of this study is that the same factors which predict abortion attitudes among persons having polar positions on the subject also predict abortion attitudes among the general population.

Table 2 continued 
Development and Validation of the Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI): Assessing Children’s Well-Being and Assets across Multiple Contexts

October 2013


1,439 Reads

Few instruments provide reliable and valid data on child well-being and contextual assets during middle childhood, using children as informants. The authors developed a population-level, self-report measure of school-aged children's well-being and assets-the Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI)-and examined its reliability and validity. The MDI was designed to assess child well-being inside and outside of school on five dimensions: (1) Social and emotional development, (2) Connectedness to peers and to adults at school, at home, and in the neighborhood, (3) School experiences, (4) Physical health and well-being, and (5) Constructive use of time after school. This paper describes the theoretical framework, selection of items and scales for the survey, and four studies that were conducted to revise the MDI and examine its psychometric properties. The findings indicate a theoretically predicted factor structure, high internal consistency, and document the convergent and discriminant validity of the MDI scales. The discussion delineates a plan for future validation studies that address further validity questions, such as predictive validity, measurement invariance, and fairness/bias, and provides a brief outlook of how the MDI may be used by practitioners, educators, and decision makers in schools and communities to motivate and inform action in support children's well-being.

Fig. 2. Plot of linear effect of length of time in study by age group (GSOEP)  
Fig. 3.  
Fig. 5. Cohort-sequential analysis from age 60 to age 90 (BHPS)  
Fig. 6. Plot of linear effect of wave by age group (BHPS)  
Fig. 7.  
Life Satisfaction Across the Lifespan: Findings from Two Nationally Representative Panel Studies

November 2010


3,239 Reads

Two large-scale, nationally representative panel studies (the German Socio Economic Panel Study and the British Household Panel Study) were used to assess changes in life satisfaction over the lifespan. The cross-sectional and longitudinal features of these studies were used to isolate age-related changes from confounding factors including instrumentation effects and cohort effects. Although estimated satisfaction trajectories varied somewhat across studies, two consistent findings emerged. First, both studies show that life satisfaction does not decline over much of adulthood. Second, there is a steep decline in life satisfaction among those older than 70. The British data also showed a relatively large increase in satisfaction from the 40s to the early 70s. Thus, age differences in well-being can be quite large and deserve increased empirical and theoretical attention.

Sociality in Diverse Societies: A Regional Analysis Across European Countries

April 2013


555 Reads

For a long time, researchers investigate the impact of diversity on society. To measure diversity, either archival data at the national level of census data at the neighborhood level, within a single country are used. Both approaches are limited. The first approach does not allow to investigate variation in diversity within countries and the second approach misses the possibility to investigate cross national differences. The present study aims at bringing these two approaches closer together by constructing diversity measures based on the European Social Survey (ESS). The ESS is collected every 2 years since 2002 and includes individual level data that allow replicating earlier measures of ethnic, linguistic, and religious diversity for 30 European countries. Furthermore, since respondents are asked to indicate in what region they live, measured with the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics classification, it is possible to construct disaggregated measures. Comparing the new indicators with existing diversity scores leads to the following conclusions. First, the new and old measures are strongly correlated at the national level. Secondly, investigating the relationship between diversity and different kinds of sociality (interpersonal trust, institutional trust, and support for government redistribution) shows that regional diversity is more strongly related to them than diversity at the national level.

Prevalence of flourishing across European countries participating in the European Social Survey 2006/7
Profiles of flourishing: rankings on features of flourishing for selected European countries
Flourishing Across Europe: Application of a New Conceptual Framework for Defining Well-Being

February 2013


2,528 Reads

Governments around the world are recognising the importance of measuring subjective well-being as an indicator of progress. But how should well-being be measured? A conceptual framework is offered which equates high well-being with positive mental health. Well-being is seen as lying at the opposite end of a spectrum to the common mental disorders (depression, anxiety). By examining internationally agreed criteria for depression and anxiety (DSM and ICD classifications), and defining the opposite of each symptom, we identify ten features of positive well-being. These combine feeling and functioning, i.e. hedonic and eudaimonic aspects of well-being: competence, emotional stability, engagement, meaning, optimism, positive emotion, positive relationships, resilience, self esteem, and vitality. An operational definition of flourishing is developed, based on psychometric analysis of indicators of these ten features, using data from a representative sample of 43,000 Europeans. Application of this definition to respondents from the 23 countries which participated in the European Social Survey (Round 3) reveals a four-fold difference in flourishing rate, from 41% in Denmark to less than 10% in Slovakia, Russia and Portugal. There are also striking differences in country profiles across the 10 features. These profiles offer fresh insight into cultural differences in well-being, and indicate which features may provide the most promising targets for policies to improve well-being. Comparison with a life satisfaction measure shows that valuable information would be lost if well-being was measured by life satisfaction. Taken together, our findings reinforce the need to measure subjective well-being as a multi-dimensional construct in future surveys.

Gender Gaps in Political Participation Across Sub-Saharan African Nations

June 2011


285 Reads

A substantial literature has studied gender differences in political participation in Western industrialized democracies, but little is known about such gaps in sub-Saharan African nations. Using 2005 Afrobarometer data, this paper presents a systematic investigation of the gender gap in political participation across 18 sub-Saharan African countries. In line with cultural isomorphism, patterns in gender gaps across different types of participation generally mirror those of Western democracies, with small to no gender gaps in registration to vote, but substantial gaps in less institutionalized types of participation. Yet, the remaining large gaps cannot be explained by gender differences in socioeconomic characteristics and political attitudes as suggested in studies on Western industrialized nations. Finally, substantial cross-national differences within the sub-Saharan African are found, substantiating the importance of more fine-grained examinations of variation across sub-Saharan African nations.

Testing Set-Point Theory in a Swiss National Sample: Reaction and Adaptation to Major Life Events

December 2014


92 Reads

Set-point theory posits that individuals react to the experience of major life events, but quickly adapt back to pre-event baseline levels of subjective well-being in the years following the event. A large, nationally representative panel study of Swiss households was used to examine set-point theory by investigating the extent of adaptation following the experience of marriage, childbirth, widowhood, unemployment, and disability. Our results demonstrate that major life events are associated with marked change in life satisfaction and, for some events (e.g., marriage, disability), these changes are relatively long lasting even when accounting for normative, age related change.

Table 4 Quality of life predictors as assessed by multiple regression analyses 
The Importance of General Self-Efficacy for the Quality of Life of Adolescents with Chronic Conditions

August 2013


410 Reads

We investigated the influence of general self-efficacy perceived by adolescents with chronic conditions and parents on quality of life. This cross-sectional study used the general self-efficacy scale and DISABKIDS condition-generic module to survey adolescents (92/293; 31 %) with type I diabetes, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis, kidney/urological conditions, and neuromuscular disorders; and parents (121/293; 41 %). Self perceived and parents' perceived general self-efficacy of adolescents was compared using paired t-tests, and adolescents' quality of life and general self-efficacy were compared among conditions using analysis of variance. Bivariate correlations between general self-efficacy and quality of life were identified, and multiple regression sought predictors of quality of life after controlling for background variables. Social quality of life was lowest among those with neuromuscular disorders. General self-efficacy was highest among adolescents with cystic fibrosis and lowest among those with urological conditions. Parents' perceptions of general self-efficacy were higher than adolescents' (p ≤ 0.05), although absolute differences were small. General self-efficacy perceived by parents and adolescents was related to emotional, physical, and social quality of life. Adolescents' perceived self-efficacy predicted all quality of life domains. Parents' perceptions of the adolescents self-efficacy predicted the adolescents' social quality of life (β = 0.19; p ≤ 0.01). General self-efficacy of adolescents with chronic conditions as perceived by themselves and their parents is important for adolescents' quality of life. Interventions to improve general self-efficacy should benefit quality of life among these adolescents.

Life Satisfaction, Positive Youth Development, and Problem Behaviour Among Chinese Adolescents in Hong Kong

February 2010


311 Reads

This paper examines the relationships among life satisfaction, positive youth development, and problem behaviour. A total of 7,975 Secondary One students (4,169 boys and 3,387 girls; with most aged 12) of Chinese ethnicity recruited from 48 schools responded to validated measures of life satisfaction, positive youth development and problem behaviour. While life satisfaction was positively correlated with different measures of positive youth development, these measures were negatively correlated with measures of substance abuse, delinquency and intention to engage in problem behaviour. Based on a series of structural equation models, a non-recursive model was found to best fit the data, which suggests that adolescents having higher levels of positive youth development are more satisfied with life and have fewer problem behaviour, with life satisfaction and problem behaviour negatively reinforcing each other.

Positive Youth Development, Life Satisfaction and Problem Behaviour Among Chinese Adolescents in Hong Kong: A Replication

February 2012


256 Reads

The purpose of this replication study was to examine the relationships among life satisfaction, positive youth development and problem behaviour. The respondents were 7,151 Chinese Secondary 2 (Grade 8) students (3,707 boys and 3,014 girls) recruited from 44 schools in Hong Kong. Validated assessment tools measuring positive youth development, life satisfaction and problem behaviour were used. As predicted, positive youth development was positively correlated with life satisfaction, and positive youth development and life satisfaction were negatively correlated with adolescent problem behaviour. Based on a series of structural equation models, the present findings replicated the previous findings that adolescents with a higher level of positive youth development were more satisfied with life and had lesser problem behaviour, with higher level of life satisfaction and lower level of problem behaviour mutually influencing each other. These replicated findings provide a further advance in the literature on positive youth development, particularly in the Chinese context. Implications for future research and intervention were discussed.

Table 3 
Fig. 3. Mean ratings of stress on the work (upper panel) and leisure (lower panel) days. Samples were obtained at 17:00 h, bed-time, 30 min after waking (Wake + 30), 10:00 am, 12:00 noon, and 15:00 h. Solid line/diamond: EMA stress; dashed line/circle: DRM worry; dotted line/square: DRM hassled. The vertical dashed line indicates the night separating the two monitoring periods of each day 
Fig. 4. Mean ratings of anger/frustration on the work (upper panel) and leisure (lower panel) days. Samples were obtained at 17:00 h, bed-time, 30 min after waking (Wake + 30), 10:00 am, 12:00 noon, and 15:00 h. Solid line/diamond: EMA anger/frustration; dashed line/circle: DRM frustration; dotted line/square: DRM anger. The vertical dashed line indicates the night separating the two monitoring periods of each day 
A Comparison of Affect Ratings Obtained with Ecological Momentary Assessment and the Day Reconstruction Method

November 2010


295 Reads

Measurement of affective states in everyday life is of fundamental importance in many types of quality of life, health, and psychological research. Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) is the recognized method of choice, but the respondent burden can be high. The day reconstruction method (DRM) was developed by Kahneman and colleagues (Science, 2004, 306, 1776-1780) to assess affect, activities and time use in everyday life. We sought to validate DRM affect ratings by comparison with contemporaneous EMA ratings in a sample of 94 working women monitored over work and leisure days. Six EMA ratings of happiness, tiredness, stress, and anger/frustration were obtained over each 24 h period, and were compared with DRM ratings for the same hour, recorded retrospectively at the end of the day. Similar profiles of affect intensity were recorded with the two techniques. The between-person correlations adjusted for attenuation ranged from 0.58 (stress, working day) to 0.90 (happiness, leisure day). The strength of associations was not related to age, educational attainment, or depressed mood. We conclude that the DRM provides reasonably reliable estimates both of the intensity of affect and variations in affect over the day, so is a valuable instrument for the measurement of everyday experience in health and social research.

Mobile phones in Africa: How much do we really know?

October 2007


2,887 Reads

Mobile phones are a crucial mode of communication and welfare enhancement in poor countries, especially those lacking an infrastructure of fixed lines. In recent years much has been written about how mobile telephony in Africa is rapidly reducing the digital divide with developed countries. Yet, when one examines the evidence it is not at all clear what is really happening. In one country, Tanzania, for example, some observers point to the fact that 97% of the population lives under the mobile footprint, while others show that ownership is very limited. These extreme values prompted us to review the situation in Africa as a whole, in an effort to discover what is really going on.

Table 1 Immigration and background variables by origin group among migrants to Israel aged 50 and older: averages and analysis of variance/Chi square 
Table 2 Life quality, life satisfaction and depression by origin group among migrants to Israel aged 50 and older: averages and analysis of variance 
Table 3 Bivariate associations among the study variables: correlation matrix (N = 930)
Table 4 Predictors of quality of life, life satisfaction and depression among migrants to Israel: hierarchical regression analysis (beta coefficients) 
quality, life satisfaction and depression by origin group among migrants to Israel aged 50 and older: averages and analysis of variance
The Subjective Well-Being of Immigrants Aged 50 and Older in Israel

August 2010


164 Reads

The present study evaluated the integration of elderly people who migrated to Israel during their lifetimes. Subjective well-being, as measured by the immigrants' perception of quality of life, satisfaction with life and emotional state, served as a general indicator of integration. The integration of elderly immigrants has not received adequate attention in the literature. A unique database (SHARE-Israel) that was recently released has made study of this topic possible. The current study sample was composed of former migrants aged 50 and older (n = 930). The analytic model examined ethnic origin and migration variables in relation to the respective subjective outcomes, controlling for sociodemographic background, human and social capital and health. The findings show that in general, ethnic origin seems to matter less for the evaluation of immigrants' subjective well-being than other socio economic factors such as economic status, social capital and health status. However, recent arrivals from the Former Soviet Union do differ from all other immigrant groups in their lower levels of well-being. In addition, the study points to the importance of language proficiency as a central means for integration in the destination country.

Feeling of social integration
Ageing, Leisure, and Social Connectedness: How could Leisure Help Reduce Social Isolation of Older People?

August 2013


711 Reads

This study investigates the relation between leisure activities and the social status of the elderly based on a heterogeneous sample of the Dutch population. Close relationships are also analyzed to identify which people could serve as successful stimulators of leisure participation. The social profile confirms that older people have fewer social contacts and often feel lonely. This study shows that leisure activities explain a significant part of older people's social connectedness. Voluntary work, cultural activities, holiday, sports, reading books, hobbies and shopping are found to be successful predictors for social connectedness of older people. Watching TV, listening to the radio, and spending time behind the computer (passive activities) were not associated with social connectedness. Friends correlate positively to participation in leisure activities. Partners play a role in participation in cultural activities and sports; parents play a role in participation in voluntary work and holidays; siblings play a role in voluntary work and sports; and children play a role in cultural activities, reading books, and shopping. Local communities can use these close relationships and develop special programs to increase social connectedness and hence improve quality of life for older adults.

Agency, Values, and Well-Being: A Human Development Model

May 2010


672 Reads

This paper argues that feelings of agency are linked to human well-being through a sequence of adaptive mechanisms that promote human development, once existential conditions become permissive. In the first part, we elaborate on the evolutionary logic of this model and outline why an evolutionary perspective is helpful to understand changes in values that give feelings of agency greater weight in shaping human well-being. In the second part, we test the key links in this model with data from the World Values Surveys using ecological regressions and multi-level models, covering some 80 societies worldwide. Empirically, we demonstrate evidence for the following sequence: (1) in response to widening opportunities of life, people place stronger emphasis on emancipative values, (2) in response to a stronger emphasis on emancipative values, feelings of agency gain greater weight in shaping people's life satisfaction, (3) in response to a greater impact of agency feelings on life satisfaction, the level of life satisfaction itself rises. Further analyses show that this model is culturally universal because taking into account the strength of a society's western tradition does not render insignificant these adaptive linkages. Precisely because of its universality, this is indeed a 'human' development model in a most general sense.

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