Humans are social creatures. The frequency of our contact with others and the quality of our personal relationships are thus crucial determinants of our well-being. Studies show that time spent with friends is associated with a higher average level of positive feelings and a lower average level of negative feelings than time spent in other ways.

Social support network

A strong social network, or community, can provide emotional support during both good and bad times as well as access to jobs, services and other material opportunities. Across the OECD, 88% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need. There is little difference between men and women, as 89% of women believe they have this kind of social support, compared with 87% for men.

While gender has little impact on social network support, there is a clear relationship between the availability of social support on the one hand, and people’s education level, on the other.  In general, there are more people who have completed tertiary education that report having someone to count on for help in times of need than people who have only attained primary education. 

A weak social network can result in limited economic opportunities, a lack of contact with others, and eventually, feelings of isolation. Social isolation may follow family breakdown, the loss of a job, illness or financial difficulties. Once socially isolated, individuals may face greater difficulties not only reintegrating society as a contributing member, but also fulfilling personal aspirations with respect to work, family and friends.

Note: data for the indicator “Perceived social network support” is provided by the Gallup World Poll.

Community in Detail by Country