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Comparing the Happiness Effects of Real and On-line Friends

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  • John F. Helliwell
  • Haifang Huang

Abstract

A recent large Canadian survey permits us to compare real-time and on-line social networks as sources of subjective well-being. The sample of 5,000 is drawn randomly from an on-line pool of respondents, a group well placed to have and value on-line friendships. We find three key results. First, the number of real-life friends is positively correlated with subjective well-being (SWB) even after controlling for income, demographic variables and personality differences. Doubling the number of friends in real life has an equivalent effect on well-being as a 50% increase in income. Second, the size of online networks is largely uncorrelated with subjective well-being. Third, we find that real-life friends are much more important for people who are single, divorced, separated or widowed than they are for people who are married or living with a partner. Findings from large international surveys (the European Social Surveys 2002-2008) are used to confirm the importance of real-life social networks to SWB; they also indicate a significantly smaller value of social networks to married or partnered couples.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18690.

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Date of creation: Jan 2013
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18690

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Cited by:
  1. PENARD Thierry & POUSSING Nicolas & SUIRE Raphaël, 2011. "Does the Internet make people happier?," CEPS/INSTEAD Working Paper Series 2011-41, CEPS/INSTEAD.
  2. Sabatini, Fabio & Sarracino, Francesco, 2014. "Online networks and subjective well-being," MPRA Paper 56436, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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