Formal vs. Informal Social Activity: Do They Substitute or Complement Each Other in Terms of Subjective Well-Being in the Middle and Older Age?

Anna Cherviakova , Higher School of Economics
Oxana Sinyavskaya, National Research University Higher School of Economics and Universiteit Maastricht
Darya Kareva, National research university "Higher school of economics"

This paper aims to analyse the mutual impact of formal (participation in voluntary organizations) and informal (contacts with friends and family) social activity on personal subjective-well-being (SWB) in the middle and older age in European countries. Despite almost complete consensus regarding positive impact of social activity on personal SWB, the relation between certain types of social activity and SWB seems to be rather sensitive to controlling for other types of activity. Following Pichler and Wallace (2007)’s patterns of substitution/ complementarity of formal and informal social capital in European countries, we hypothesise that in Nordic, Western European and Southern countries, formal and informal social activity complement each other in terms of SWB in the middle and older age, while in Eastern-European countries, both types of social activity substitute each other. This research is based onthe European Social Survey (ESS), 2012.The sample includes people of 50 years and over from 26 European countries. To consider national differences,we apply random slope logit multilevel models with binary responses. The preliminary results show significant differences between European countries in the impact of social activity on SWB(life satisfaction and happiness) in the middle and older age. In Nordic and Western European countries, voluntary activity seems to complement social contacts for higher SWB, while in Southern and Eastern-European countries the substitution pattern of volunteering by contacts with friends and relatives mainly exists.

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 Presented in Session P2. Poster Session Ageing, Health and Mortality