Patterns of connectedness and resilience to hard times

Lindsay Richards, The University of Manchester

Lindsay Richards

Resilience connectedness social capital well-being hard times

The concept of resilience has been largely confined to child development and to stress responses in health research. I argue that it also has a place in sociological and economic research as a construct integrating outcomes and the presence of adversity. This study is concerned with psychological well-being, its resilience to economic hard times and the role of social context as a resilience resource.

The concept of social capital is used as a theoretical framework and combined with economic and psychological takes on happiness. It is accepted that money does buy happiness to a certain degree, but also that adaptive and social comparison processes are operating. The analysis shows that social capital (connectedness) is not only reliant on economic circumstances and predictive of subjective well-being, but also has the power to mediate the relationship between these two factors. I follow in the ‘civic’ tradition of social capital and a new measurement scheme is proposed.

Indicators from the 7 most recent waves of BHPS data (2002 – 2008) are used to perform a latent class analysis resulting in a typology of connectedness; each type having a unique social, economic, and psychological profile. Connectedness is then used in a multilevel modelling framework (observations nested within individuals) along with economic factors to predict life satisfaction. The longitudinal approach highlights that connectedness may be better understood as dynamic, with individual changes in civic activity being particularly frequent. I also show that the relationship between economic hard times (including a drop in income and financial struggles) and well-being differs by connectedness with some types showing more resilience than others.

This research contributes to a growing literature showing that the effect of money on happiness is less than straightforward and that social context functions as a resilience resource to maintain well-being despite the presence of financial stressors.