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People Happier By Joining Groups

 

variety of studies have shown that group identification ... linked to high levels of satisfaction with life

A variety of studies have shown that group identification (a sense of belonging to one’s social group, coupled with a sense of commonality with the group’s members) is linked to high levels of satisfaction with life (SWL). The aim of the present study was to support and extend this literature by: (1) investigating the link between group identification and SWL with a large cross-cultural community sample; (2) examining whether the relationship is moderated by nationality; and (3) considering whether SWL is enhanced by possessing multiple group identifications simultaneously. Utilizing data from Wave 1 of the Health in Groups project, 3829 participants from both Scotland and Italy completed a questionnaire assessing their identification with their family, their local community, and a group of their choice, as well as their level of SWL. Higher identification with each group predicted higher SWL. Nationality was a marginal moderator of the relationship between family identification and SWL, with the relationship being stronger for Italian participants than for Scottish participants. There was also an additive effect of group identification, with a positive relationship between the number of groups with which participants identified and their SWL. These effects were obtained even after controlling for gender, age, employment status, nationality, and extent of contact with each group. The implications for healthcare professionals and their patients are discussed.

 

positive effects that belonging to groups can have on people’s subjective wellbeing

Satisfaction with life (SWL) is considered to be one of the two facets of subjective wellbeing (the other being an emotional component; Lucas et al. 1996). SWL is a popular way to assess wellbeing because it enables the respondent to decide which criteria to include (and how to weight each of those criteria) in their assessment of overall life satisfaction (e.g., career, finances, relationships, health, etc.; Diener et al. 1985). Researchers out-with the social identity tradition have highlighted the important positive effects that belonging to groups can have on people’s subjective wellbeing. For instance, Delle Fave et al. (2011) investigated participants’ understandings of happiness across many cultures, and found that social relations and family relations were strongly linked to feelings of happiness and meaningfulness in life (the latter of which was also linked to happiness and SWL). Indeed, this sense of meaning in life, which can be promoted though close and satisfying relationships with others, is hypothesised to play a key role in mediating the positive link between social relations and subjective wellbeing (e.g., Nakamura 2013). It therefore seems that the meaningfulness promoted by our social relationships can be an integral part of a happy life (e.g., Peterson et al. 2005).

 

group identification has the ability to ‘buffer’ the individual from the everyday stresses of life by providing a sense of meaning and security

These conclusions are also supported by research within the social identity tradition. Numerous social identity researchers have assessed the link between group identification and SWL, with the popular theory being that group identification has the ability to ‘buffer’ the individual from the everyday stresses of life by providing a sense of meaning and security, as well as increasing the likelihood of the individual receiving useful social support from fellow ingroup members (Jetten et al. 2010). In turn, these elements are believed to enhance SWL.

 

multiple group memberships enhance SWL, especially during times of stress or identity transition

There is a range of evidence to support the idea that multiple group memberships enhance SWL, especially during times of stress or identity transition. For instance, Haslam et al. (2008) investigated patients recovering from stroke, and found that possessing multiple group memberships before the stroke predicted relatively high levels of SWL during recovery. The authors concluded that this was because belonging to multiple groups pre-stroke increased the likelihood that the individual would be able to maintain at least some of those memberships post-stroke. Similarly, Iyer et al. (2009) recruited participants who were about to start university, and found that individuals who possessed few group memberships before beginning their studies tended to report low levels of SWL in their first year of study. Again, possessing multiple group memberships seems to provide the individual with more resources to cope with a significant identity transition, leading to relatively high SWL (Jetten et al. 2010).

 

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