Social Indicators Research

, Volume 123, Issue 3, pp 919–935 | Cite as

Trust and Happiness: Comparative Study Before and After the Great East Japan Earthquake

  • Eiji YamamuraEmail author
  • Yoshiro Tsutsui
  • Chisako Yamane
  • Shoko Yamane
  • Nattavudh Powdthavee


The positive relationship between trust and happiness has been demonstrated by the literature. However, it is not clear how much this relationship depends on environmental conditions. The Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 is considered one of the most catastrophic events in human history. This disaster caused not only physical damage for Japanese people, but also perceived damage. Using individual-level panel data from Japan covering the period 2009–2012, this paper attempts to probe how the relationship between trust and happiness was influenced by the Great East Japan Earthquake by comparing the same individuals before and after the earthquake. A fixed-effects estimation showed that there is a statistically well-determined positive relationship between trust and happiness and this relationship was strengthened by disaster, especially for residents in the damaged area. We argue that social trust is a substitute for formal institutions and markets, which mitigates the effect of disaster-related shock on psychological conditions such as happiness. Therefore, a trustful society is invulnerable to a gigantic disaster.


Trust Happiness Disaster Great East Japan Earthquake 



This research uses microdata from the Preference Parameters Study of Osaka University’s twenty-first Century GCOE program, Behavioral Macrodynamics based on Surveys and Experiments, and its GCOE project, Human Behavior and Socioeconomic Dynamics. We acknowledge the contribution from the program and project contributors: Yoshiro Tsutsui, Fumio Ohtake, and Shinsuke Ikeda. The first author gratefully acknowledges financial support in the form of research grants from the Japan Center for Economic Research as well as the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (Foundation C 20368971). The first author also wishes to acknowledge the financial support of the Kikawada Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eiji Yamamura
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yoshiro Tsutsui
    • 2
  • Chisako Yamane
    • 3
  • Shoko Yamane
    • 4
  • Nattavudh Powdthavee
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Seinan Gakuin UniversityFukuokaJapan
  2. 2.Faculty of EconomicsKonan UniversityKobeJapan
  3. 3.Okayama Shoka UniversityOkayamaJapan
  4. 4.Kindai UniversityOsakaJapan
  5. 5.CEPLondon School of EconomicsLondonUK
  6. 6.MIAESRUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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