Future of Well-Being Isn’t About Macroeconomy, But Social Fabric, Says a Study

Policies that are overly focused on economic growth will have limited effects on well-being, therefore focus should be on social fabric

DESPARDES — The greatest potential benefits for nations lie in the domain of social well-being, not GDP or other economic measures,” says a new research. That the study has found so is not a new thing though — it’s an age-old catchphrase Grandmas have been saying over the centuries.

The latest research therefore that to improve people’s well-being as much as possible in coming decades, policymakers should look beyond narrow economic calculations (macroeconomic) and prioritize non-material factors when making big decisions.

Non-material factors (subjective well-being (SWB)) would play a bigger role than money in future well-being of nations and their social fabrics, the study concluded.

These well-being measures are reproducible over time within populations, says the study.

The work drew on global well-being surveys over the past decade to project  potential levels of world happiness in 2050.

Using four variables (corruption, freedom, giving, and social support), and two variables (per capita gross domestic product (GDP) and life expectancy) the study found that the readily quantified material outcomes such as per capita income would have lesser impacts on human welfare over the decades.

“Long-run policies that are overly focused on economic growth will have  limited effects on well-being,” said lead author Christopher Barrington-Leigh, an associate professor at the Institute for Health and Social Policy and the School of Environment at McGill University in Canada.

Researchers designed a statistical model that combined two sets of measures:

– Objective material indicators, including GDP per capita and life expectancy.

– Social indicators, as measured in the annual Gallup World Poll of recent years (and the World Happiness Report); these include freedom to choose what to do with one’s life, perceived levels of government and business corruption, prevalence of donating, and availability of informal social supports.

Results showed that the greatest benefits to be potentially made over the next decades, as well as the most dangerous pitfalls to be avoided in public-policy decision-making lie in the domain of social fabric.

“Feasible changes in GDP are very unlikely to play an important role in changes in life self-evaluations within 30 years,” said coauthor Eric Galbraith, of the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) in Spain.

The demographics of an area that consists of wealth, ethnic composition, level of education, rate of employment and local values combine to create social fabric of a nation.

Metaphorically, how well community members interact among themselves could be a measure. If you consider all the individual members as threads, the “social fabric” is made by having those members interact, thus weaving the threads together. The tighter the weave (the more frequently and positively the members interact with each other), the stronger the fabric is; the looser the weave, the weaker the fabric, and the more likely to tear (have conflicts that pit one group against another), fray (lose members), develop loose threads (criminals), and otherwise suffer. Enhancing the social fabric, then, means to provide more and better interactions between members of the community so that they can be more involved, be happy, be more willing to help someone when there is a need, and be inspired to keep their neighborhood or village a positive, pleasant place to live.