Using data from the UK Community Life Survey, we examine the relationship between social integration and subjective wellbeing. We measure social integration along various dimensions, including frequency of interaction with one’s neighbors, perceived strength of belonging to one’s immediate neighborhood and country, length of residence in a neighborhood, and trust in neighbors. Overall, we find that social integration is associated with higher levels of subjective wellbeing. Specifically, our results suggest that an increase in the frequency of interaction with one’s neighbors is associated with an increase in subjective wellbeing. Similarly, an increase in respondent’s perceived strength of belonging to their immediate neighborhood (and country) is associated with an increase in subjective wellbeing. We further discover that an increase in the length of residence in a neighborhood is associated with an increase in subjective wellbeing, and this is also the case for an increase in the level of trust in one’s neighbour.
Despite the growing interest in understanding the determinants of subjective wellbeing, significant gaps remain in the literature. One such gap concerns the understanding of the effects of social integration and/or social inclusion on wellbeing,1 specifically the role played by interactions with one’s neighbors and the important factor of belongingness. Social isolation has long been associated with poor mental health (Cornwell and Waite 2009; Courtin and Knapp 2017; Ludwig and Collette 1970; Matthews et al. 2015) and is often an explanatory factor in understanding violent behaviour (Choi, Cheung, and Cheung 2012; Lee, Maume, and Ousey 2003), and in recent times a growing body of research has looked at social isolation as a contributing factor in the process of radicalization by terrorist groups (Abbas 2007; Hörnqvist and Flyghed 2012). Social exclusion has also been seen as a consequence of economic disadvantage. However, economists have shown that money alone does not generate happiness (Headey, Muffels, and Wooden 2008). Indeed, the well-documented increase in violence among white youths from middle and higher-income families and neighborhoods points to a need to look beyond economic hardship as a driver of poor subjective wellbeing (see, for example, Garbarino 1999).