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Comparing the Happiness Effects of Real and On-line Friends

Author

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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.

Suggested Citation

  • John F. Helliwell & Haifang Huang, 2013. "Comparing the Happiness Effects of Real and On-line Friends," NBER Working Papers 18690, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18690 Note: LS PE
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. John F. Helliwell & Christopher P. Barrington-Leigh & Anthony Harris & Haifang Huang, 2009. "International Evidence on the Social Context of Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 14720, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Mariska Horst & Hilde Coffé, 2012. "How Friendship Network Characteristics Influence Subjective Well-Being," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 107(3), pages 509-529, July.
    3. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Paul Frijters, 2004. "How Important is Methodology for the estimates of the determinants of Happiness?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(497), pages 641-659, July.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. John F. Helliwell & Lara B. Aknin & Hugh Shiplett & Haifang Huang & Shun Wang, 2017. "Social Capital and Prosocial Behaviour as Sources of Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 23761, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. McDool, Emily & Powell, Philip & Roberts, Jennifer & Taylor, Karl, 2016. "Social Media Use and Children's Wellbeing," IZA Discussion Papers 10412, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. repec:eee:respol:v:47:y:2018:i:1:p:308-325 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Pénard, Thierry & Poussing, Nicolas & Suire, Raphaël, 2013. "Does the Internet make people happier?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 105-116.
    5. Angelo Antoci & Alexia Delfino & Fabio Paglieri & Fabio Sabatini, 2016. "The ecology of social interactions in online and offline environments," Papers 1601.07776, arXiv.org.
    6. Fabio Sabatini & Francesco Sarracino, 2017. "Online Networks and Subjective Well-Being," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 70(3), pages 456-480, August.
    7. David E. Allen & Michael McAleer & Robert Powell & Abhay K. Singh, 2017. "Volatility spillover and multivariate volatility impulse response analysis of GFC news events," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(33), pages 3246-3262, July.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • P51 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems - - - Comparative Analysis of Economic Systems

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