Social Relationships and Happiness in Rural Japan and Austria


This project investigates the significance of social relationships for rural well-being in cross-cultural comparison. Previous happiness research has often relied on a simplified understanding of the complex term of well-being. Using a multi-method approach while combining four scientific perspectives (Japanese studies, sociology, psychology, political science), this interdisciplinary team project proposes a concept integrating the dimensions of civic engagement, cultural context, personality and social embeddedness in rural environments. Thus by combining individual with social level factors a differentiated cultural comparison of well-being is rendered possible.

Research Questions

This study explores the topic by asking

  1. What is the relationship between social relationships and subjective well-being in rural areas?
  2. How does political participation, relational satisfaction and the embeddedness in social networks affect different measures of well-being?
  3. How does the relationship between these factors differ in cross-cultural comparison?

Relational model of well-being

Relational model of well-being


  • Social relationships have a significant impact on subjective well-being in rural areas
  • The size of this effect depends to a certain extent on the cultural context
  • Individual factors such as personality (e.g. extraversion) moderates the relationship between social relationships and well-being.
  • Through an interdisciplinary approach, an understanding of subjective well-being that unifies quantitative measurable data and qualitative views of well-being can be formed.


Comparative research of two sites in Aso (JPN) and Hartberg (AUT)

Quantitative Survey

  • Well-being: subjective well-being, interdependent
  • Social relationships: relational satisfaction, social networks, political participation
  • Personality

Qualitative Survey

  • Participant observation (neighborhood associations, social movements)
  • Face-to-face interviews
  • Focus group discussions


  • Field trip February 2018: access to field, networking
  • February 2018 – Summer 2018: survey design
  • Field trip September 2018 – November 2018: participant observation, interviews, conducting survey – cooperation with Kumamoto University
  • Ongoing presentations of preliminary results at Vienna University

Aso (Japan)

Aso (Japan)

Hartberg (Austria)

Hartberg (Austria)