Life satisfaction (LS) is the way in which people show their emotions, feelings (moods) and how they feel about their directions and options for the future.[page needed] It is a measure of well-being assessed in terms of mood, satisfaction with relationships, achieved goals, self-concepts, and self-perceived ability to cope with one's daily life. Life satisfaction involves a favorable attitude towards one's life rather than an assessment of current feelings. Life satisfaction has been measured in relation to economic standing, degree of education, experiences, residence, among many other topics.
Life satisfaction is a key part of subjective wellbeing. There are many factors both internal and external that contribute to one's subjective wellbeing and life satisfaction. (Diener, 2021).
Factors affecting life satisfaction
One of the primary concepts of personality is the Big Five factor model. This model illustrates what some researchers believe to be the building blocks of every individual's personality. This model considers the dimensions of openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. In a study carried out by Deneve and Cooper in 1998, multiple studies were analyzed with certain personality questionnaires that linked subjective well-being and personality measures. They found that neuroticism was the strongest predictor of life satisfaction. (Deneve and Cooper, 1998). Neuroticism is also linked to people who have difficulty making up their mind, and is common in people who suffer from mental illness. The personality factor "openness to experience" is positively correlated with life satisfaction. Apart from the personality dimensions studied in the Big Five model, the trait chronotype has been related to life satisfaction; morning-oriented people ("larks") showed higher life satisfaction than evening-oriented individuals ("owls").
More frequent socialization can also contribute to overall well-being. Social support via others has been shown to affect the well-being of adults and the overall health of those individuals. Therefore, people who tend to communicate, and who are considered to be more open to others would have a higher-level of life satisfaction.
Another factor that is often considered when ranking one’s life satisfaction is an individual’s genes and how they affect the traits of that individual, also known as heritability. Heritability has been proven to play a role in an individual’s personality and experiences, and research suggests that heritability can influence life satisfaction to some degree. This study found that there were no individual differences between males and females in terms of the heritability of life-satisfaction, however the personality elements that were affected by heritability did seem to have an effect on their overall life-satisfaction. Having a personality capable of properly dealing with negative emotions like anger, angst, or hate can be beneficial when dealing with similar events that may come later in life. People who are more easy-going tend to deal with their negative emotions differently than someone who is more up-tight. These individual differences can influence the way people deal with their problems in the present and how they may deal with similar situations in the future.
The Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS) is a single scale that is used by UNESCO, the CIA, the New Economics Foundation, the WHO, the Veenhoven Database, the Latinbarometer, the Afrobarometer, and the UNHDR to measure how one views their self-esteem, well-being and overall happiness with life. Previous modeling showed that positive views and life satisfaction were completely mediated by the concept of self-esteem, together with the different ways in which ideas and events are perceived by people. Several studies found that self-esteem plays a definite role in influencing life satisfaction. When a person knows himself and his worth, he is driven to think in a positive way. There is also a homeostatic model that supports these findings.
Outlook on life
An individual's mood and outlook on life greatly influences the perception of their own life satisfaction. Two correlating emotions that may influence how people perceive their lives are hope and optimism. Both of these emotions consist of cognitive processes that are usually oriented towards the reaching and perception of goals. Additionally, optimism is linked to higher life satisfaction, whereas pessimism is related to symptoms in depression.
According to Seligman, the happier people are, the less they focus on the negative aspects of their lives. Happier people also have a greater tendency to like other people, which promotes a happier environment. This correlates to a higher level of the person's satisfaction with their life, due to the notion that constructiveness with others can positively influence life satisfaction. However, others have found that life satisfaction is compatible with profoundly negative emotional states like depression.
In a study carried out Juan Pedro Serrano, José Miguel Latorre, Margaret Gatz, and Juan Montanes from the department of psychology at Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, researchers used life-review therapy with 43 older adults. The test they used was designed to measure participants' ability to recall a specific memory in response to a cue word while being timed. Thirty cue words; including five words classified as 'positive' (e.g., funny, lucky, passionate, happy, hopeful), five as 'negative' (unsuccessful, unhappy, sad, abandoned, gloomy), and five as 'neutral' (work, city, home, shoes, family); were presented orally in a fixed, alternating order to each member of a focus group. To ensure that the participants understood the instructions, examples were provided of both 'general' memories (e.g., summers in the city) and 'specific' memories (e.g., the day I got married). For each cue word, participants were asked to share a memory evoked by that word. The memory had to be of an event that should have occurred only once, at a particular time and place and lasted no longer than a day. If the person could not recall a memory within 30 seconds, then that cue instance was not counted. Two psychologists served as raters and independently scored the responses of each participant. Each memory was tagged either as 'specific'—if the recalled event lasted no more than one day—or, otherwise, as 'general'. The raters were not informed regarding the hypotheses of the study, the experimental (control) group's membership, nor the content of the pretest or post-test. The results of this study showed that with an increased specificity of memories, individuals showed decreased depression and hopelessness, as well as increased life satisfaction.
A common view is that age and life satisfaction have a "U-shape", with life satisfaction declining towards middle age and then rising as people get older. Other scholars have found that there is no general age trend in life satisfaction, arguing that Blanchflower and Oswald's work is misguided for including inappropriate control variables (which cannot affect how old someone is).
The psychologists Yuval Palgi and Dov Shmotkin (2009) studied people who were primarily in their nineties. This subject group was found to have thought highly of their past and present. But generally, the group thought lower of their future. These people were very satisfied with their life up until the point they were surveyed but knew that the end was near and so were not quite as hopeful for the future. Intelligence is also a factor because life satisfaction grows as people become older; as they grow older, they become wiser and more knowledgeable, so they begin to see that life will be better and understand the important things in life more.
It has been recorded that adolescents seem to have a lower level of life satisfaction than their older counterparts. This could be because many decisions are imminent, and an adolescent could be facing them for the first time in their life. Although many adolescents have insecurities about many aspects of their lives, satisfaction with friends stayed at a consistent level. This is hypothesized to be due to the amount one can identify with those in one's age group over other age groups. In this same study, researchers found that satisfaction with family decreased. This could be because more rules and regulations are typically implemented by parental figures, and adolescents tend to demonize those in control of them. Also, it was found that life satisfaction in terms of sexuality increased. This is because at this age many adolescents reach sexual maturation, which can encourage them to find verification and satisfaction in the idea of a sexual partnership.
Life events and experiences
It has been suggested that there are several factors that contribute towards our level of life satisfaction. Experiences that are both acute events (e.g., death of a loved one) and chronic, daily experiences (e.g., ongoing family discord) influence self-reports of life satisfaction. The book "Happier" by Harvard lecturer Tal Ben-Shahar argues that happiness should be one's ultimate goal, the primary factor in evaluating alternative choices. As the subtitle implies, Happier recommends for us to pursue immediate joyful experience in ways that contributes to more long-term, meaningful satisfaction. Furthermore, Ben-Shahar argues that pursuing genuine self-motivated goals, rather than just instant pleasure or selflessness in service of long-delayed enjoyment, results in an optimal combination of short- and long-term happiness.
Differences in experience can greatly shape the way that we observe and engage with the world around us. It can influence the way we speak to people, the way we act in public, and our general outlook. These experiences which shape the way we think about our surroundings affect our life-satisfaction. Someone who has the tendency to see the world in a more negative light may have a completely different level of satisfaction than someone who is constantly admiring the beauty of their surroundings. People who engage with more stress on average tend to have higher levels of stress can contribute to higher levels of self-report life satisfaction, as long as those who understand how to deal with their stress in a positive way.
A recent study analyzes time-dependent rhythms in happiness comparing life satisfaction by weekdays (weekend neurosis), days of the month (negative effects towards the end of the month) and year with gender and education and outlining the differences observed. Primarily within the winter months of the year, an onset of depression can affect us, which is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It is recurrent, beginning in the fall or winter months, and remitting in the spring or summer. It is said that those who experience this disorder usually have a history of major depressive or bipolar disorder, which may be hereditary, having a family member affected as well.
Seasonal affective disorder is hypothesized to be caused by the diminishing of the exposure to environmental light which can lead to changes in levels of the neurotransmitter chemical serotonin. Diminishing active serotonin levels increases depressive symptoms. There are currently a few treatment therapies in order to help with seasonal affective disorder. The first line of therapy is light therapy. Light therapy involves exposure to bright, white light that mimics outdoor light, counteracting the presumed cause of SAD. Due to the shifts in one's neurochemical levels, antidepressants are another form of therapy. Other than light therapy and antidepressants, there are several alternatives which involve agomelatine, melatonin, psychological interventions, as well as diet and lifestyle changes.
Research has found that the onset of SAD typically occurs between the ages of 20–30 years, but most affected people do not seek medical help. This could be due to the stigma of mental health issues. Many are afraid to state they are suffering and would rather hide it. As a society, we should push forward towards greater acceptance and gain knowledge in order to solve these issues.
It is proposed that overall life satisfaction comes from within an individual based on the individual's personal values and what he or she holds important. For some it is family, for others it is love, and for others, it is money or other material items; either way, it varies from one person to another. Economic materialism can be considered a value. Previous research found that materialistic individuals were predominantly male, and that materialistic people also reported a lower life satisfaction level than their non-materialistic counterparts. The same is true of people who value money over helping other people; this is because the money they have can buy them the assets they deem valuable. Materialistic people are less satisfied with life because they constantly want more and more belongings, and once those belongings are obtained they lose value, which in turn causes these people to want more belongings and the cycle continues. If these materialistic individuals do not have enough money to satisfy their cravings for more items, they become more dissatisfied. This has been referred to as a hedonic treadmill. Individuals reporting a high value on traditions and religion reported a higher level of life satisfaction. This is also true for reported routine churchgoers and people who pray frequently. Other individuals that reported higher levels of life satisfaction were people who valued creativity, and people who valued respect for and from others – two more qualities seemingly not related to material goods. Because hard times come around and often people count on their peers and family to help them through, it is no surprise that a higher life satisfaction level was reported of people who had social support, whether it be friends, family, or church. The people who personally valued material items were found to be less satisfied overall in life as opposed to people who attached a higher amount of value with interpersonal relationships. In accordance with the findings above, it is also fair to say that the notion of how one values themselves plays a part in how someone considers their own life. People who take pride in themselves by staying mentally and physically fit have higher levels of life satisfaction purely due to the content of their day. These values come together in determining how somebody sees themselves in light of others.
Defining culture by reference to deeply engrained societal values and beliefs. Culture affects the subjective well-being. Well-being includes both general life satisfaction, and the relative balance of positive affect verses negative affect in daily life. Culture directs the attention to different sources of information for making the life satisfaction judgments, thus affecting subjective well-being appraisal.
Individualistic cultures direct attention to inner states and feelings (such as positive or negative affects), while in collectivistic cultures the attention is directed to outer sources (i.e. adhering to social norms or fulfilling one's duties). Indeed, Suh et al. (1998) found that the correlation between life satisfaction and the prevalence of positive affect is higher in individualistic cultures, whereas in collectivistic cultures affect and adhering to norms are equally important for life satisfaction. Most modern western societies, such as the US and European countries, tend towards individualism, while eastern societies like China and Japan, are directed towards collectivism. Collectivistic cultures emphasize family and social unity. They put others' needs before their individual desires. An individualistic culture is geared towards one's own personal achievements and involves a strong sense of competition. People are expected to carry their own weight and rely on themselves. The United States is said to be one of the most individualistic countries, and on the other hand Korea and Japan are some of the most collectivistic countries. However both have their flaws. An individualistic approach can lead to loneliness. Meanwhile, those in a collectivist culture may be prone to having a fear of rejection. (See social control)
Life satisfaction can also be looked at in a new one as influenced by a family. Family life satisfaction is a pertinent topic as everyone's family influences them in some way and most strive to have high levels of satisfaction in life as well as within their own family. As discussed by Gary L. Bowen in his article, "Family Life Satisfaction: A Value Based Approach" he examines how family life satisfaction is enhanced by the ability of family members to jointly realize their family-related values in behavior (459). It is important to examine family life satisfaction from all members of the family from a "perceived" perspective and an "ideal" perspective. Greater life satisfaction within a family increases through communication and understanding each member's attitudes and perceptions. A family can make all the difference for someone's life satisfaction.
In the article "Family System Characteristics, Parental Behaviors, and Adolescent Life Satisfaction" by Carolyn S. Henry, adolescent life satisfaction has much different origins than the life satisfaction of adults. An adolescent's life satisfaction is heavily influenced by their family's dynamic and characteristics. Family bonding, family flexibility, parental support are all huge factors into the adolescent's life satisfaction. The more bonding, flexibility, and support there is within a family the higher the adolescent's life satisfaction. Results of this study also revealed that adolescents living in a single-parent family home had significantly lower life satisfaction that adolescents in a two-parent home. An adolescent's age is extremely important in terms of life satisfaction coming from their family (Henry).
Family also relates to life satisfaction in a very different way: a woman's decision to have children or not. In the "Relationship between Information Search in the Childbearing Decision and Life Satisfaction for Parents and Nonparents" article by Carole K. Holahan, reveals that childless women have much higher life satisfaction than women with children. Women who consciously decided not to have children overall had very high life satisfaction. It was found that most of the life satisfaction came from careers instead of children. On the other hand, women who did have children had high life satisfaction which depended on the reasons and decision making for having children. These are just generalizations and life satisfaction comes from many different sources which are unique and different for every person. Life satisfaction can shift all the time from events, situations, family and friend implications and many different things that all must be taken into consideration.
On the other hand, life satisfaction is also affected by parenthood and couples introducing children into their relationship. Research has shown that adults with children are less happy (McLanahan & Adams 1987) due to less life satisfaction, less marital satisfaction, more anxiety and more depression.
Marriage has a correlation with life satisfaction, but causality is still under debate. Many studies do not consider whether self-selection could be a factor affecting the relationship between marriage and life satisfaction. In other words, it could be that happier individuals are more likely to marry, painting a different picture of the effects of marriage. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that people select into marriage. In addition, even if there is such a causation effect, social exclusion and stigma experienced by single may be those responsible for higher levels of life satisfaction among married couples, rather than marriage itself.
A satisfying career is an important component of life satisfaction. Doing something meaningful in a productive capacity contributes to one's feeling of life satisfaction. This notion of accomplishment is related to a person's drive. The need for accomplishment is an essential part of becoming a fully functional person, and if someone feels accomplished they would be more able to see bright sides in their life; thus improving their life satisfaction.
Internationally, the salary one earns is important–income levels show a moderate correlation with individual evaluations of life satisfaction. However, in developed nations, the connection is weak and disappears for the most part when individuals earn enough money to meet basic needs (Kahneman & Deaton 2010; Diener et al., 2010; Myers and Diener, 1995).
Relationship with subjective well-being
- Broad measures of economic progress
- Disability-adjusted life year
- Full cost accounting
- Gender-related Development Index
- Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI)
- Global Peace Index
- Green gross domestic product (Green GDP)
- Green national product
- Gross National Happiness
- Gross National Well-being (GNW)
- Happiness economics
- Happy Planet Index (HPI)
- Human Development Index (HDI)
- ISEW (Index of sustainable economic welfare)
- Law of Social Cycle
- Legatum Prosperity Index
- Leisure satisfaction
- Living planet index
- Money-rich, time-poor
- OECD Better Life Index
- Satisfaction with Life Index
- Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)
- Where-to-be-born Index
- World Happiness Report (WHR)
- World Values Survey (WVS)
- Democracy Ranking
- Demographic economics
- Economic development
- Ethics of care
- Human Development and Capability Association
- Human Poverty Index
- Progress (history)
- Progressive utilization theory
- International Association for Feminist Economics
- International development
- Sustainable development
- System of National Accounts
- Tripartite model of subjective well-being
- Welfare economics
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