Agree Maslow was right! :)
Professor Ori Heffetz
Associate Professor of Economics, Cornell University and Hebrew University
Agree Interesting proposition. Rare personality types is not something economists tend to focus on, so I'd appeal to our personality psychologist colleagues to answer in more quantitative detail about the rarity. However, from all the evidence about the importance of relationships for wellbeing, I'd certainly call such individuals "outliers". Though I would note that warm relationships/friendships can be with other species, too.
Professor Chris Barrington-Leigh
Assistant Professor, McGill University
Agree Social relationships are one of the strongest drivers of subjective wellbeing in every piece of research I have seen that includes them. This includes both their impact on evaluative measures and also their impact on measures of experienced wellbeing. People with low levels of wellbeing generally are people who experience poor outcomes across the majority of the drivers of subjective wellbeing. Similarly, people with high wellbeing are, empirically, people with good outcomes across the majority of the drivers of subjective wellbeing. This makes the existence of people with high wellbeing but poor social relations unusual, but not impossible.
Professor Conal Smith
Senior Associate at Institute for Governance and Policy Studies, Victoria University of Wellington
Completely disagree "While research consistently shows that strong inter-personal relationships contribute positively to individual well being, survey based evidence, at least in Western nations, also consistently shows that most people report high levels of subjective well-being. In Australia, for example, the HILDA Survey finds that mean life satisfaction scores on a 0-10 scale year average close to 8 every year. Further, my own analysis of long-term life satisfaction suggests very few Australians report being persistently dissatisfied: less than 2% of the population (of persons aged 15+) average 5 or less on this scale when measured over multiple years. At the other end of the scale, 50% of the adult population average 8 or more. This distribution is thus too heavily weighted in favour of high scores to support the hypothesis that only rarely do ""loners"" have high levels of well-being. Indeed, using a simple measure of loneliness, and just using data from the 2019 survey wave, I find that among persons who report strongest agreement with the statement ""I often feel very lonely"" (i.e., selected 7 on the 7-point disagree/agree scale) more than 40% still reported life satisfaction scores of 8 or more. On average, lonely people are much less satisfied with their lives (mean score of 6.7 for the most lonely vs a mean of 8.5 for the least lonely), but that is very different to the claim that it is rare for lonely people to have high levels of well-being."
Professor Mark Wooden
Professorial Research Fellow and Director of the HILDA Survey Project, Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic and Social Research, Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Melbourne
Agree Emotionally warm social relationships are highly conducive to enhancing wellbeing. In answering the question, however, we need to consider what might be regarded as a 'high' level of wellbeing. The statement is likely to be correct when comparing people within a country (e.g. see overviews such as Layard: 'Happiness', 2011, or Easterlin: 'An Economist's Lessons on Happiness', 2021). However when comparing people across the globe, we see high levels of evaluative wellbeing (say at least a 7/10 on life satisfaction - when the 2018 WHR shows a global median of 5/10) for many people in rich countries, some of whom are likely to suffer from loneliness etc. Their material wealth and freedoms in part compensate for their personal circumstances.
Professor Arthur Grimes
Chair of Wellbeing and Public Policy, School of Government, Victoria University of Wellington
Agree The findings contributed by economists and psychologists studying human suffering from loneliness, divorce, the loss of loved ones, and other experiences of withdrawal from positive social relations show clearly that this social withdrawal harms wellbeing. Further, literatures on the origins of criminal behaviour and psychopathology indicate socially-mediated abuse (i.e., dysfunctional social relationships of various sorts) as a primary cause. So, positive interpersonal connections bring happiness and normal functioning to humans. It is possible for more than a "very rare" fraction of humans to enjoy high levels of wellbeing even without positive social connections? On this point i am less certain, and studies less frequently ask the question in this way. Some people have excellent imaginations and can train themselves to get quite a lot of pleasure from other things even when low on social contact, at least temporarily. It is also possible to train up using AI substitutes to some extent, though given the present technological frontier i doubt this would be able to create a full substitute.
Professor Gigi Foster
Associate Professor and Undergraduate Coordinator, School of Economics, UNSW Business School
Agree Having warm social relationships is a basic need of human beings. For the sake of simplicity, let's assume that subjective well-being (SWB) rests on the three pillars having, loving and being. If a person does not experience "loving", the other two pillars have to carry the load. This is not entirely impossible (think of a happy hermit), but for most human beings not very realistic. Most likely, a lonely billionaire will not chose the 9 or 10 on the happiness scale. Most humans are better off with warm social relationships.
Professor Jan Delhey
Professor of Sociology, University of Magdeburg
Completely disagree High-quality interpersonal relations have been shown to be fundamental to people's satisfaction with life. Bjorn Grinde has even provided an evolutionary explanation for the importance of human relations in people's happiness. Both quantity and quality of interpersonal relations matter for happiness; research shows that it is very important for these relations to be genuine, person-based, and non-instrumental. Thus, we must not confuse the concept of social capital (which focuses on civic and instrumental relations) with that of person-based interpersonal relations (which focuses on enjoyment of life)
Professor Mariano Rojas
Professor of Economics, Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla
Agree I agree partially with the sentence because I don't believe that "only very rare individuals" enjoy life without social relationships. However, the pooled European Quality of Life Survey shows that 81% of respondents with rich social lives declared to be satisfied with their lives, whereas the share of satisfied people among those with poor social relations is 55.5%. A mix of cultural, social and evolutionary reasons can explain this relationship, and probably there is some truth in all of them. However, it is unclear which of the three aspects matters most. The answer is important because if it is an evolutionary trait, then a culture that promotes individualistic and materialistic values will likely generate cognitive dissonance, unhappiness and conflicts. The Covid-19 pandemic offered another reason for the association between happiness and social relations: countries in which people enjoy rich social lives fared the pandemic better than others: they experienced less stringent policies, less positive cases, and faster recovery after a peak in contagions.
Doctor Francesco Sarracino
Economist, Research Division of the Statistical Office of Luxembourg -STATEC
Completely agree "It is pretty much the central finding in the wellbeing literature that warm social relations are a huge part of wellbeing and that people without them suffer. We see this in thousands of studies. There is no research I know of that has identified a sizeable group of very happy people who go without good social relations. There is no paper called ""the happy hermit"" or ""satisfied in solitary confinement"". Yet, despite it being so ubiquitous, the finding is not without strong implications, particularly for an age of lockdowns and social distancing that reduces the intimacy of social ties. The finding exposes lockdowns as wellbeing-reducing. Also, the finding has implications in particular for economics that has as its workhorse model the notion of the solitary consumer who is unaffected by what others consume. On that basis, higher material consumption is the main thing for policy to aim for. If warm social relations are the main thing to aim for, totally different policy aims come into view, such as how other societies can copy cultures where warm social relations are normal. "
Professor Paul Frijters
Professorial Research Fellow, CEP Wellbeing Programme, London School of Economics
Agree The positive effect of good social relationships on individualsâ€™ wellbeing emerges from many and many studies, without necessarily specifying the exact meaning of the term â€˜goodâ€™. For example, â€˜trust in othersâ€™, â€˜reciprocityâ€™, â€˜altruismâ€™ are a very used proxies for good social relationships, but they do not necessarily imply â€˜having strong and emotionally warm social relationshipsâ€™, which is more demanding. A more complete and effective (but complex) measure is used by psychology studies in the Attachment Approach applied to adults: i.e. â€˜having an easy of becoming emotionally close to others; feeling comfortable depending on others and having others depend on me; not being worried about being alone or not being accepted by others.â€ An economic-psychology study shows some evidence that economic growth increases subjective well-being more in those countries where the average of this measure of social attachment is higher (BÃ¶ckerman et al., 2016).
Professor Maurizio Pugno
Full Professor of Economics, University of Cassino
Agree "There is a large literature showing that supportive relationships are a consistently strong correlate of well-being. More than this, several theories regard social connection as a basic need (Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Ryan & Deci, 2000). People who lack social support and social connections are more likely to experience loneliness and suffer negative health consequences from chronic stress. That said, itâ€™s worth noting that certain components of well-being may be more strongly tied to social support than other components. In a global sample of adults, social support and feeling respected correlate .18 and .11 with life satisfaction, but .29 and .36 with positive feelings (Tay & Diener, 2011). Thus, to some extent, it may be possible for a person to have high life satisfaction without strong social supportâ€”particularly if they are wealthy. However, supportive relationships are likely to contribute to greater emotional well-being, meaning in life, and still make an independent contribution to life satisfaction above and beyond a personâ€™s wealth. Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497â€“529. psyh. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.117.3.497 Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68â€“78. psyh. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.68 Tay, L., & Diener, E. (2011). Needs and subjective well-being around the world. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(2), 354â€“365. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0023779 "
Professor William Tov
Associate Professor of Psychology at Singapore Management University
Agree "Professor Diener work stresses the importance of social capital for our happiness beyond and above our material wellbeing. The happiness literature has consistently shown a positive and strong correlation between wellbeing and social capital, both formal and informal. It is however difficult to identify which part of it is causal. For example, professor Diener (Diener and Biswas-Diner, 2008, chapter 2) would argue that it is not only that social relationships are crutial for our wellbeing, but it is also happiness (being cheerful, smiling, optimisms,â€¦) that helps us to connect to others which, in turn, will increase our wellbeing. In other words, a virtuous circle. People feel attracted to those that smile and itâ€™s pleasant to be around. This means that it is not clear what would be an exogenous effect of social capital on happiness, although it seems plausible that the correlation would persist. Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener, 2008. Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth. Wiley-Blackwell."
Professor Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonnell
Professor of Economics, IAE-CSIC
Agree While not everyone is the same, the quantity and quality of our social relationships is an important driver for well-being on average. I would argue that this not only encompasses family and friends, but also how we treat strangers and how much we trust others in society. So some of this is objective in terms of who we meet and have in our lives, but some of this is also subjective, how we perceive those relationships.
Professor Martin Binder
Professor of Socio-Economics at Bundeswehr University Munich
Completely agree "If one were to equate wellbeing with nothing more than life satisfaction, then this statement is very likely false: it isn't hard to find people who will sincerely report high levels of life satisfaction in just about any sort of life, including people who are depressed or are resigned to lives they think are going badly. (Being satisfied doesn't mean you think your life is going well, just that it's good *enough*, can't complain.) But of course, relationships are still strongly related in general to life satisfaction, along with about every other wellbeing indicator, and there's probably nothing more important for human wellbeing. One the many vital roles Ed Diener played in this field is that he was very cautious about what the science showed, and never pretended that life satisfaction alone sufficed for wellbeing. It's a really important and valuable indicator, and vastly better than just counting money. But this is partly a philosophical question, as wellbeing involves a value judgment about who is better or worse off. And no one working on the philosophy of wellbeing that I know of would identify wellbeing with life satisfaction alone. But we'd likely all agree that it's rare if not impossible for someone to attain a high level of wellbeing without good relationships."
Professor Dan Haybron
Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University
Completely agree As Aristotle said, Man is a social animal. Autistic individuals may be an exception, but having strong and emotionally warm social relationships is a biological need for almost all people. Loneliness not only lowers wellbeing, but also has negative health consequences.
Professor Guy Mayraz
Lecturer, University of Sydney
Agree Regular and close social contacts, trust in others and having people with whom to share experiences, be they positive or negative, are generelly among the most important ingredients to living a happy and satisfied life.
Professor Andreas Knabe
Professor (Chair in Public Economics), Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg
Neither agree nor disagree "If high level of happiness implies that the individuals are in equilibrium with both their micro and macro universes, then it is logical that the individualâ€™s connection with herself/himself and other individuals are functioning well. However, given that the connections of an individual with others are both formal, informal and a combination of formal and informal, some individuals might experience more often formal connections that are by construction less emotionally warm. Therefore, even though the earlier literature reported evidence that ""warm and trusting relationships with others"" are important for the individual's high level of wellbeing, we need to learn more about the dynamics and the sustainability of this evidence over time and how long and how much could ""something else"" compensate for the absence of "" having strong and emotionally warm social relationships"". Today's progress and creativity in collecting information might very soon change both the way in which we collect and measure the individual's wellbeing and emotionally warm social relationships. But, nonetheless, â€œclinicians, policy makers and citizens stand to benefit significantly from standardisation of measurement toolsâ€.* * Hone, L.C., Jarden, A., Schofield, G.M., & Duncan, S. (2014). Measuring flourishing: The impact of operational definitions on the prevalence of high levels of wellbeing. International Journal of Wellbeing, 4(1), 62-90. doi:10.5502/ijw.v4i1.4 "
Professor Daniela Andrén
Senior Lecturer, Örebro University School of Business
Agree If we consider personality (e.g. Big 5) and needs hierarchy (Maslow), then we know that agreeable open people who are not too conscientious and free of emotional instability, are happier. As we ascend Maslow’s hierarchy we move from sustenance and shelter towards the need for human interaction, a relationship. People who are in a stable relationship tend to be agreeable open type people, and happier. The question is: does our progress from sustenance to relationship emerge from our genes, or, from learned experience. We receive love from others (especially when we are young) and we reciprocate by extending love to other. To do anything else puts us in a state of cognitive dissonance, we get that queasy feeling in the tummy (negative affect). Human like to be liked, we like to love., that love makes us feel happy.
Doctor Tony Beatton
Visiting Fellow, Queensland University of Technology (QUT)