Life satisfaction

Life satisfaction is the way persons evaluate their lives and how they feel about their directions and options for the future.[1] It is a measure of well-being and may be assessed in terms of mood, satisfaction with relations with others and with achieved goals, self-concepts, and self-perceived ability to cope with daily life. It is having a favorable attitude of one's life as a whole rather than an assessment of current feelings. Life satisfaction has been measured in relation to economic standing, amount of education, experiences, and residence, as well as many other topics.[2][3][4][5]

Life satisfaction and personality

One of the most studied concepts of personality is the big five model with dimensions of openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. In a research carried out by Deneve and Cooper in 1998, multiple studies were analyzed and certain personality questionnaires that linked subjective well-being (SWB) and personality measures. They found that neuroticism was the strongest predictor of life satisfaction and negative affect while the personality measure 'openness to experience' correlated equally to life satisfaction and positive affect. Amongst other personality traits chronotype has been consequently related to life satisfaction; morning oriented people (larks) showed higher life satisfaction than evening oriented individuals (owls).[6][7]

Life satisfaction

Life satisfaction can reflect experiences that have influenced a person in a positive way. These experiences have the ability to motivate people to pursue and reach their goals.[8] There are two kinds of emotions that may influence how people perceive their lives. Hope and optimism both consist of cognitive processes that are usually oriented towards the reaching of goals and the perception of those goals. Additionally, optimism is linked to higher life satisfaction, whereas pessimism is related to symptoms in depression.[9] 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 his or her self-esteem, well-being and overall happiness with life.[10] 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. There is also a homeostatic model that supports these findings.[11] A person's mood and outlook on life can also influence their perception of their own life satisfaction.[8]

According to Seligman, the happier people are, the less they are focused on the negative. Happier people also have a greater tendency to like other people, which promotes a happier environment, which then correlates to a higher level of the person's satisfaction with his or her life.[12] However, others have found that life satisfaction is compatible with profoundly negative emotional states like depression.[13]

Life-review therapy using Autobiographical Retrieval Practice for older adults with depressive symptoms, in a study carried out by Serrano JP, Latorre JM, Gatz M, and Montanes J, Department of psychology at Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, demonstrated that, with increased specificity of memories, individuals show decreased depression and hopelessness and increased life satisfaction. The test 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, of an event that should have occurred only once, at a particular time and place, and that 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.

Life satisfaction and age

The psychologists, Yuval Palgi and Dov Shmotkin (2009), studied the old-old — 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. A large factor that was talked about in life satisfaction was intelligence. The experiments talk of how life satisfaction grows as people become older because they become wiser and more knowledgeable, so they begin to see that life will be better as they grow older and understand the important things in life more.[14]

Life events and experiences

It has been suggested that there are several factors that contribute towards our happiness. Positive and negative experiences, both those that are acute events (e.g., death of a loved one) and chronic, daily experiences (e.g., ongoing family discord) influence LS reports. In the book “Happier” by Tal Ben-Shahar, an author and lecturer at Harvard University, he argues that happiness should be people’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.

Life satisfaction and seasonal effects

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.[15]


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.[16] 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.[17] 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 craving for more items, they become more dissatisfied. This has been referred to as a hedonic treadmill. On the contrary, if an individual does not hold the acquisition of wealth as a high priority, his or her personal financial state will not make a difference on how happy he or she is with life overall. 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. Conveniently, the idea of religion and church are selfless, non-materialistic acts, which logically concludes why the opposite effect is true of people who hold opposite values as priority. 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.[17] 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[18]


In persons aged 65 to 88 years, studies have shown that highly older persons tend to increase in religiousness over the course of their lives, those who were low in religiosity tended to report a decrease. There is a low moderate positive relationship between religiosity and life satisfaction. Gender may also play a role in religiousness. Women tend to have greater religiosity, the basis may be due to biological differences or psychological role in society. Association for Psychological Science [19] Mothers are reported to have had the strongest pro-religious influence, although both parents are perceived to be an important influence in religious development of their children.

Personal religious identity is positively associated with life satisfaction throughout the world. The association increases in size under conditions of greater governmental regulation while the association between participation in organized religion and contentedness is attenuated as governance increases, then becomes negative when government regulation reaches highs.

Studies suggest religious people are more satisfied with their lives than the non-religious. In people who attended a religious service weekly, many were "extremely satisfied" with their lives. According to the American Sociological Review, religious people gain more life satisfaction thanks to the social networking they build by attending religious services. According to study researcher Chaeyoon Lim, a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, "We show that life satisfaction is almost entirely about the social aspect of religion, rather than the theological or spiritual aspect of religion. We found that people are more satisfied with their lives when they go to church, because they build a social network within their congregation."

People with more than ten friends in their congregation were reported to almost be twice as satisfied with life as people with no friends in their congregation. The religious propensity toward charity and volunteerism can be connected with close church friendship, as well. The benefits of religious social support have been found to explain the link between attendance at religious services and life satisfaction.[20]


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.


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 members 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 his or her 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. From the study, 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 of 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.


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.

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 all 2010; Myers and Diener, 1995).

See also


  1. Anand, Paul (2016). Happiness Explained. Oxford University Press.
  2. "Life satisfaction". Life Satisfaction. OECD Better Life Index. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
  3. "A Review of Life Satisfaction Research with Children and Adolescents" (PDF): 196. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
  4. "Work-Family Conflict, Policies, and the Job-Life Satisfaction Relationship: A Review and Directions for Organizational Behavior-Human Resources Research" (PDF): 145. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
  5. "Life Review Therapy Using Autobiographical Retrieval Practice for Older Adults With Depressive Symptomatology" (PDF): 274. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  6. Jankowski, K.S. (2012). Morningness/Eveningness and Satisfaction With Life in a Polish Sample. Chronobiology International, 29,780-785.
  7. Díaz-Morales, J.F., Jankowski, K.S., Vollmer, C., Randler, C. (2013). Morningness and life satisfaction: further evidence from Spain. Chronobiology International, 30,1283-1285.
  8. 1 2 Bailey, T., Eng, W., Frisch, M., & Snyder, C. R. (2007), "Hope and optimism as related to life satisfaction." Journal of Positive Psychology, 2(3), 168-69.
  9. Chang, E. C., & Sanna, L. J. (2001). Optimism, pessimism, and positive and negcative affectivity in middle-aged adults: a test of a cognitive-affective model of psychological adjustment. Psychology and Aging, 16(3), 524-531. doi: 10.1037/08827974163524
  10. Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Diener, Ed; Suh, Eunkook M.; Lucas, Richard E.; Smith, Heidi L. Psychological Bulletin, Vol 125(2), Mar 1999, 276-302. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.125.2.276
  11. Cummins, Robert (October 8, 2002). Normative Life Satisfaction: Measurement Issues and a Homeostatic Model (PDF) (Report). Retrieved August 13, 2012.
  12. Seligman, M. (2002), "Positive emotions undo negative ones". Authentic Happiness. New York, New York: Simon & Schuster.
  13. Carson, T. (1981), "Happiness, Contentment and the Good Life". Pacific Philosophical Quarterly.
  14. Palgi, Y., & Shmotkin, D. (2010), "The predicament of time near the end of life: Time perspective trajectories of life satisfaction among the old-old." Aging & Mental Health, 14(5), 577- 86. doi:10.1080/13607860903483086
  15. Maennig, W., Steenbeck, M., Wilhelm, M. (2013), Rhythms and Cycles in Happiness,
  16. Keng, Ah Kau; Kwon Jung; Tan Soo Jiuan; Jochen Wirtz (2000). "The Influence of Materialistic Inclination on Values, Life Satisfaction and Aspirations: An Empirical Analysis". Springer. 39 (3): 317–33. doi:10.1023/A:1006956602509.
  17. 1 2 Georgellis, Yannis; Tsitsianis, Nicholas; Yin, Ya Ping, "Personal Values as Mitigating Factors in Link Between Income and Life Satisfaction: Evidence from the European Social Survey". Social Indicators Research, Vol 91(3), May, 2009. pp. 329-44.
  18. Wu, C., Mei, T., & Chen, L. (2009), "How do positive views maintain life satisfaction". Springer.
  19. "Religiosity and Gender: Nature or Nurture?". Retrieved 2012-03-30.
  20. Doane, M. J. (2013). The association between religiosity and subjective well-being: The unique contribution of religious service attendance and the mediating role of perceived religious social support. The Irish Journal of Psychology, 34(1), 49-66. DOI:10.1080/03033910.2013.775071

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