Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 765–783 | Cite as

Which is More Relevant for Perceived Happiness, Individual-Level or Area-Level Social Capital? A Multilevel Mediation Analysis

  • Takashi OshioEmail author
Research Paper


A growing number of studies have addressed how social capital is closely related to an individual’s perceived happiness. However, most happiness studies have focused on individual-level social capital, which is based on an individual’s subjective assessment of social capital gathered from social surveys. Considering that social capital was originally a collective concept, this study distinguished individual- and area-level aspects of social capital and their relationships in terms of their associations with perceived happiness. To this end, we employed multilevel mediation analysis using cross-sectional microdata from a nationwide Internet survey conducted in Japan (N = 9523). We focused on four types of social capital: trust in neighbors, contacts with neighbors, bonding, and bridging. Based on the estimation results, we first confirmed that social capital at both the individual and area levels had a positive association with perceived happiness when using them separately as an independent variable. Second, we found that a substantial portion of the effect of area-level social capital on perceived happiness was mediated by individual-level social capital. This suggests that an individual’s commitment to area-level social capital is required if a large portion of its potential benefits on perceived happiness are to materialize. Furthermore, we observed that the effects of area-level bonding and bridging on their individual-level measures were affected by several individual-level attributes, including personality traits. Overall, the results underscore the need for further investigation into the association between perceived happiness and social capital at different levels.


Social capital Perceived happiness Mediation analysis Trust Social network Bonding Bridging 


  1. Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator–mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 1173–1182.Google Scholar
  2. Benet-Martínez, V., & John, O. P. (1998). Los Cinco Grandes across cultures and ethnic groups: Multitrait-multimethod analyses of the Big Five in Spanish and English. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 729–750.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bjørnskov, C. (2003). The happy few: Cross-country evidence on social capital and life satisfaction. Kyklos, 56, 3–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bjørnskov, C. (2008). Social capital and happiness in the United States. Applied Research in Quality of Life, 3(1), 43–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Coleman, J. (1988). Social capital in the creation of human capital. American Journal of Sociology, 94, S95–S120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Coleman, J. S. (1990). Foundations of social theory. Cambridge/London: Bellknap Press of Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Cummins, S., Macintyre, S., Davidson, S., & Ellaway, A. (2005). Measuring neighbourhood social and material context: Generation and interpretation of ecological data from routine and non-routine sources. Health & Place, 11, 249–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Helliwell, J. F., & Barrington-Leigh, C. P. (2011). How much is social capital worth? In J. Jetten, C. Haslam, & S. A. Haslam (Eds.), The social cure (pp. 55–71). London: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  9. Kawachi, I., Subramanian, S. V., & Kim, D. (2008). Social capital and health. New York, NY: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kim, D., Subramanian, S. V., & Kawachi, I. (2006). Bonding versus bridging social capital and their associations with self rated health: A multilevel analysis of 40 US communities. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 60, 116–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kokko, K., Tolvanen, A., & Pulkkinen, L. (2013). Associations between personality traits and psychological well-being across time in middle adulthood. Journal of Research in Personality, 47, 748–756.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Krull, J. L., & MacKinnon, D. P. (2001). Multilevel modeling of individual and group level mediated effects. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 36, 249–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Leung, A., Kier, C., Fung, T., Fung, L., & Sproule, R. (2010). Searching for happiness: The importance of social capital. Journal of Happiness Studies, 12, 443–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lin, N. (1999). Building a network theory of social capital. Connections, 22, 28–51.Google Scholar
  15. Lin, N. (2001). Social capital: A theory of social structure and action. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. MacKinnon, D. P., Fairchild, A. J., & Fritz, M. S. (2007). Mediation analysis. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 593–614.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Mohnen, S. M., Groenewegen, P. P., Völker, B., & Flap, H. (2011). Neighborhood social capital and individual health. Social Science and Medicine, 72, 660–667.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Mohnen, S. M., Völker, B., Flap, H., Subramanian, S. V., & Groenewegen, P. P. (2015). The influence of social capital on individual health: Is it the neighbourhood or the network? Social Indicators Research, 121, 195–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Moore, S., Bockenholt, U., Daniel, M., Frohlich, K., Kestens, Y., & Richard, L. (2011). Social capital and core network ties: A validation study of individual-level social capital measures and their association with extra- and intra-neighborhood ties, and self-rated Health. Health & Place, 17, 536–544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mujahid, M. S., Diez-Roux, A. V., Morenoff, J. D., & Raghunathan, T. (2007). Assessing the measurement properties of neighborhood scales: From psychometrics to ecometrics. American Journal of Epidemiology, 165, 858–867.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Murayama, H., Fujiwara, Y., & Kawachi, I. (2012). Social capital and health: A review of prospective multilevel studies. Journal of Epidemiology, 22, 179–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Murayama, H., Nofuji, Y., Matsuo, E., Nishi, M., Taniguchi, Y., Fujiwara, Y., & Shinkai, S. (2015). Are neighborhood bonding and bridging social capital protective against depressive mood in old age? A multilevel analysis in Japan. Social Science and Medicine, 124, 171–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Oshio, T., & Urakawa, K. (2012). Neighbourhood satisfaction, self-rated health, and psychological attributes: A multilevel analysis in Japan. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 32, 410–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Portes, A. (1998). Social capital: Its origins and applications in modern sociology. Annual Review of Sociology, 24, 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Powdthavee, N. (2009). Putting a price tag on friends, relatives, and neighbours: Using surveys of life satisfaction to value social relationships. Journal of Socio-Economics, 37, 1459–1480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Putnam, R. (1993). The prosperous community: Social capital and public life. American Prospect, 13, 35–42.Google Scholar
  27. Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American Community. New York: Simon & Schuster.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Raudenbush, S. W., & Sampson, R. J. (1999). Ecometrics: Toward a science of assessing ecological settings, with application to the systematic social observation of neighborhoods. Sociological Methodology, 29, 1–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Richard, E., & Diener, E. (2009). Personality and subjective well-being. Social Indicators Research Series, 37, 75–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rodríguez-Pose, A., & von Berlepsch, V. (2014). Social capital and individual happiness in Europe. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15, 357–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Snelgrove, J. W., Pikhart, H., & Stafford, M. (2009). A multilevel analysis of social capital and self-rated health: Evidence from the British Household Panel Survey. Social Science and Medicine, 68, 1993–2001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Statistics Bureau (2015). Regional Statistics Database. Accessed 10 May 2015.
  33. Sundquist, K., & Yang, M. (2007). Linking social capital and self-rated health: A multilevel analysis of 11,175 men and women in Sweden. Health Place, 13, 324–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Szreter, S., & Woolcock, M. (2004). Health by association? Social capital, social theory and the political economy of public health. International Journal of Epidemiology, 33, 650–667.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Yang, K. (2007). Individual social capital and its measurement in social surveys. Survey Research Methods, 1, 19–27.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Economic ResearchHitotsubashi UniversityKunitachiJapan

Personalised recommendations