The Economics of Emotion: How Social Capital Affects Mental Well-Being Open Access

Rabinowitz, Lucy Jane (2014)

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The connection between social context and physical and mental health outcomes is widely recognized in research. In this paper, I examine the relationship between individual levels of social capital and self-reported mental well-being. Using data from the MIDUS social survey conducted in 1995 and 1996 by the MacArthur Foundation, I created one scale measuring social capital through neighborhood social environment and another scale measuring mental well-being. Using multivariate regression analysis, I found that neighborhood social environment has a statistically significant impact on mental well-being. I also examined this relationship through the relative effects of the demographic variables age, sex, race, marital status, income and education. The results of my analysis shed light on the specific mechanisms through which neighborhood level social capital function to improve mental well-being. My findings demonstrate the importance in considering subjective neighborhood social environment as a cause of poor mental well-being. Future research on the intersection between social capital and mental well- being would benefit from including objective census-level data about neighborhood social environment as well as subjective self-reported measures.

Table of Contents

1.Introduction and Background

1. Defining Social Capital

5. Inequality and Health

8. Mental Health and Social Environment

9. Social Characteristic Variables

19. Methods

19. Neighborhood

21. Mental Well- Being

23. Social Characteristic Variables

25. Results

25. Bivariate Analysis

27. Multivariate Analysis

31. Discussion

32. Conclusion

34. Limitations and Future Research

36. Works Cited

39. Tables

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