Trust among people based on an informal code of conduct is one of the key ingredients for human happiness. In fact, trust mitigates the relationship between an individual and the outside world. The level of trust in society is important both for the economy and social processes at the macro-level.
The overall level of trust is low in Russian society, but this is partly offset by people's trust in their close circle, argues Anna Mironova in her report 'The Impact of Trust as an Element of Social Capital on Individuals' Subjective Well-being'.
Her paper uses empirical data from the Values Research in Russia's two Federal Districts initiated by the International Laboratory of Socio-Cultural Research and carried out by the Centre for Comparative Social Research in the summer of 2012. A total of 2,061 interviews were conducted, including 1,026 in the Central Federal District and 1,035 in the North Caucasian Federal District, with respondents aged between 18 and 60.
Experts view trust as an unwritten social contract allowing people to co-exist in society.
In her study, Mironova identifies three types of trust:
Mironova notes that depending on the type of trust, its level in Russian society is different.
Her findings reveal a fairly low level of general trust: the majority (43.3%) of respondents are suspicious of other people, and only 28.7% generally regard people as trustworthy. Similarly, half of the respondents (49.1%) do not regard people as honest, almost 28% are not sure, and only 22.2% believe that people around them generally act in an honest way.
Her findings were similar regarding institutional trust. However, the level of social trust towards neighbours and colleagues was fairly high: 45.5% of respondents trusted their colleagues to varying degrees, and 46.2% trusted their neighbours, while 20.4% admitted they did not trust colleagues and 22.6% were suspicious of neighbours. As for attitudes towards other ethnicities, 32.2% trusted them and 30.7% were suspicious of other ethnic groups, the researcher notes.
Mironova also examined respondents' satisfaction with their work, which is considered to be a component of individual happiness. Most respondents were generally satisfied with their work, but not necessarily with how much they are paid – 38.2% were happy with their salaries, while 28.9% were not.
Mironova also examined the relationship between the three types of trust and work satisfaction, on the one hand, and one's level of subjective well-being, on the other.
She used the three types of trust as independent variables and a subjective assessment of one's own well-being (measured using statements such as 'My living conditions are excellent', 'I am satisfied with my life', etc.) as a dependent variable. Mironova found a positive correlation between trust and life satisfaction.
In addition, she also analysed a partial mediation model in which trust affected subjective well-being indirectly through job satisfaction, as well as directly.
Institutional and social trust showed a positive relationship with life satisfaction, according to Mironova. General trust, however, had a negative effect.
Of the three types, social trust contributes the most to subjective well-being. The regression coefficient for social trust stands at 0.2, compared to 0.11 for general trust and 0.12 for institutional trust. Regression coefficient usually shows how much a dependent variable will increase if an independent variable changes.
A statistically significant impact of work satisfaction on happiness was found; the regression coefficient of 0.41 confirms a positive relationship between these variables. In contrast, the effects of general and social trust on work satisfaction were not statistically significant, but institutional trust was positively related to job satisfaction.
Mironova’s findings show that social trust has the greatest effect on subjective well-being – perhaps because trust towards concrete individuals in everyday interactions is more important than trust in government institutions or in generally in people.
Mironova concludes that efforts should be taken to create a favourable environment for building trust at a macro-level to raise the level of happiness in Russian society, which should be the ultimate social policy goal.