Social capital and subjective well-being among university students in a South African context
The importance of subjective well-being and determining the best ways to improve this construct, have recently received an increased amount of research attention. This is most probably due to the fact that increased levels of subjective well-being have been found to lead to several desirable outcomes, such as healthier living conditions, critical thinking skills, positive development, greater application of intellect and goal generation (Calvo, Zheng, Kumar, Olgiati, & Berkman, 2012; Mazzucchelli & Purcel, 2015). Diener and Chan (2013) define subjective well-being as an individual’s positive perception of affective and cognitive experiences. A key aspect linked to increased subjective well-being is social capital. Social capital is broadly defined as any resource that can be created through persons’ interactions with others (Grootaert, Narayan, Jones, & Woolcock, 2004). This construct has been found to have a positive impact on strengthening not only community unity, but also increasing individuals’ quality of life (Field, 2008). The objectives of this study were firstly, to determine the self-reported levels of social capital and the subjective well-being of a group of South African university students, and secondly, to determine the relationship between social capital and subjective well-being within this group of students. The sample consisted of 141 undergraduate students from the North-West University’s Potchefstroom campus. The participants completed three online questionnaires aimed at determining their self-reported level of subjective well-being and social capital. The Fordyce Social capital and subjective well-being among university students in a South African context 4 Emotions Questionnaire (FEQ, Fordyce, 1977), the Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS, Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985) and the Integrated Questionnaire for the Measurement of Social Capital (SC-IQ, Grootaert et al., 2004) were used in the study. The self-reported levels of social capital and subjective well-being of this group of students were determined by means of descriptive statistics. In order to determine the relationship between social capital and subjective well-being, correlational analysis was conducted. Both t-tests and Chi-Square analyses were performed to determine the relationship between social capital and subjective well-being due to the nature of the social capital measure used in this study producing both ordinal and nominal level data. The results indicated that this group of South African students have high levels of self-reported life satisfaction and happiness when compared to international samples. Several domains of social capital show meaningful results. The findings of this study suggest that these students enjoy socialising with others, as is evident by their high group membership (groups and networks) as well as their need to get together with others for food or drinks (social cohesion and inclusion). A strong sense of community is also evident among this group, as they are willing to help within their community and they believe that others are also willing to assist when a problem arises (social cohesion and inclusion). This group of students also indicated that they believe they have the power to change and influence their environment (empowerment and political action). Trust; however, was found to be very low among the students. Furthermore, the study found that there is a relationship between satisfaction with life and several domains of social capital, including groups and networks, trust and solidarity, collective action and cooperation as well as empowerment and political action. The students’ Social capital and subjective well-being among university students in a South African context 5 self-reported levels of happiness showed significant correlations with all domains of social capital. The results of the study; therefore, indicate that a relationship exists between social capital and subjective well-being within this group of students. The strong association found between these two constructs could have significant practical implications in terms of interventions aimed at student groups, which can focus on increasing subjective well-being through building trust and social interactions. The understanding of this relationship can contribute towards the successful management of challenges around reconciliation and social integration currently faced by many South African universities. As the majority of research endeavours focus on individuals’ intersubjective experience of life, the influence culture has on the behaviours and perceptions of individuals is often ignored, which hampers a deeper understanding of the interrelations of cultures (Eom & Kim, 2015). Future research should therefore, focus on understanding cross-cultural differences of the relationship between social capital and subjective well-being. An additional consideration for future research should be to focus on the use of both quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection to allow for a more detailed understanding of the possible causal relationship that might exist between these two constructs.
- Humanities