Social Capital and Prosocial Behaviour as Sources of Well-Being

37 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2017 Last revised: 5 Jun 2022

See all articles by John F. Helliwell

John F. Helliwell

University of British Columbia (UBC) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Lara B. Aknin

University of British Columbia

Hugh Shiplett

University of British Columbia (UBC) - Vancouver School of Economics

Haifang Huang

University of Alberta - Department of Economics

Shun Wang

KDI School of Public Policy and Management

Date Written: August 2017

Abstract

This paper surveys evidence documenting positive linkages among social capital, prosocial behaviour, and subjective well-being. Whether in the workplace, at home, in the community, or among nations, better and deeper social connections, and especially higher levels of trust are linked to higher subjective well-being, even beyond the effects flowing through higher incomes and better health. Prosocial behaviour is also shown to be a robust predictor of well-being in both correlational and experimental contexts. These two lines of research are connected, as prosocial acts are most likely to increase well-being when they are delivered in ways that improve social capital, and reflect intentional generosity free of either compulsion or personal gain. We infer that these deep links between prosocial acts and well-being have an evolutionary benefit in maintaining the quality of social capital and thereby delivering cooperative human responses in times of crisis.

Suggested Citation

Helliwell, John F. and Aknin, Lara B. and Shiplett, Hugh and Huang, Haifang and Wang, Shun, Social Capital and Prosocial Behaviour as Sources of Well-Being (August 2017). NBER Working Paper No. w23761, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3031732

John F. Helliwell (Contact Author)

University of British Columbia (UBC) - Department of Economics ( email )

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Lara B. Aknin

University of British Columbia ( email )

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Hugh Shiplett

University of British Columbia (UBC) - Vancouver School of Economics ( email )

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Haifang Huang

University of Alberta - Department of Economics ( email )

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Shun Wang

KDI School of Public Policy and Management ( email )

P.O. Box 184
Seoul, 130-868
Korea, Republic of (South Korea)

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