84 – Quality and quantity: the role of social interactions in individual health

The public health literature focusing on the detrimental effects of social isolation has shown that the quantity of social connections is positively correlated with individual health.

Drawing on pooled cross-sectional data, we test this hypothesis on a representative sample of the Italian population. Our findings show that, besides the quantity of interactions, it is their quality – as measured by subjective satisfaction derived from relationships with friends – that works as the best predictor of health. We point out the existence of health disparities based on socio-economic status.

Poorer and less educated individuals are exposed to a higher probability of reporting poor health conditions. The risk is even worse for unemployed and retired workers. This paper contributes to the literature in two substantive dimensions. This is the first empirical study of the relationship between social interactions and health in Italy. Second, we add to previous studies by carrying out the first assessment of the role of satisfaction in interpersonal relations.

JEL Codes: I12; I18; Z1

Keywords: health, well-being, satisfaction, social interactions, social capital, family, Italy.