Social capital increases the level of subjective well-being among adolescents

Social capital has central importance for adolescents’ subjective well-being, a current study states. The importance is specifically significant for those who have a low level of well-being. From all social relationships, family relations turned out to be more important than others. The study was published in Social Indicators Research and it examined the subjective well-being of 12–13-year-old adolescents.

Minna Tuominen and Leena Haanpää from the University of Turku studied the association between social capital and the subjective well-being of 12–13-year-old adolescents.

– A lot of research has been done on social capital. However, the concept of social capital has been defined differently by different researchers, which is why studies are not comparable, says Minna Tuominen, Doctoral Candidate in Sociology.

Unlike the mainstream of previous research, Tuominen and Haanpää treated social capital as a multidimensional resource covering social networks, trust in other people and the giving and receiving of mutual assistance. The results of the study show that it is important to consider all three dimensions of social capital together because they correlate with each other; the omission of one dimension could distort the results obtained in other dimensions. The results of the study also show that each dimension of social capital has a clear link to the perceived well-being of adolescents. However, trust, especially trust in one’s own family members, seems to be more important.

– Social capital is a very relevant factor in well-being research, Tuominen sums up. According to the study, young people with low levels of well-being suffer most from a lack of social capital. However, it was in this group that the link between social capital and well-being was most pronounced. Therefore, young people whose well-being level is low may benefit more than others if their level of social capital can be increased. The question is how to do it.

– How we relate to other people, whether we trust them or not, whether we help when necessary or not, is largely learned, Tuominen explains. It is therefore important that educators at all levels are aware of this. The school institution has an important strategic opportunity to systematically invest in increasing social relations among young people, strengthening trust and developing a culture of reciprocity. In a best-case scenario, schools may even be able to compensate for the potential scarcity of social capital within a young person’s own family circle.

The study used data from the International Survey of Children’s Well-Being (ISCWeB) collected 2018–2019. The sample of the study concerned 12–13-year-old Finnish sixth-graders.

The research article