Life satisfaction

Life satisfaction is the way in which people show their emotions and feelings (moods) 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 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 is a key part of subjective wellbeing (SWB).

Factors affecting life satisfaction


One of the most studied concepts of personality is the big five factor model. This model illustrates what these researchers believed to be the building blocks of individuals personality. The model deals 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. Neuroticism is linked as well to people who have difficulty making up their mind, and is also common in people who suffer from mental illness. The personality factor 'openness to experience' is also correlated equally to life satisfaction although in a positive way. 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]

Being a person who is seen to socialize more with others can contribute to someone’s overall well being. Social support via others has been shown to affect the well-being of adults through its effect on the overall health of those individuals.[8] Therefore, people who tend to communicate, and who are considered to be more open to others would have a higher-level of life satisfaction.

Heritability has been shown to have an effect on how one is ranked in terms of life-satisfaction. Heritability plays a role in the personality of any given person, along with their individual experiences. And Heritability can influence life satisfaction to some degree.[9] This study found that there were no individual differences between males in 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.

It has been further suggested that being able to independently deal with negative emotions can influence long-term life-satisfaction.[10] Having the personality capable of properly dealing with emotions like anger, angst, or hate can be beneficial when dealing with similar things later in life. People who are more easy-going tend to deal with their negative emotions differently than someone who is up-tight. These individual differences can influence the way they deal with problems in the present and can be conditioned to how they could possibly deal with similar situations in the future.

Factors on how somebody sees themselves can be influenced by many different ways. Personality is a clue figuring out how different people react in different situations. Situations dictate personality and vice versa, and these aspects determine how people function. Life satisfaction is no different. Many different variables play important roles in determining how someone values their life. Personality can help illuminate possible answers for questions regarding the reason someone acts a specific way, this in turn can help predict their view on their life as a whole.


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.[11] 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. By knowing yourself and your worth, you are driven to think in a positive way. There is also a homeostatic model that supports these findings.[12]

Outlook on life

A person's mood and outlook on life can also influence their perception of their own life satisfaction.[13] 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.[14]

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 his or her life, due to the notion that constructiveness with others can positively influence life satisfaction.[15] However, others have found that life satisfaction is compatible with profoundly negative emotional states like depression.[16]

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.


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. 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.[17]

It has been recorded that adolescents seem to have a lower level of life satisfaction than their older counterparts. Something about adolescents seems to suggest a lower level of this. 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 at one can identify with those in their 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 came to increase. 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.[18]

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 someone'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 that 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.[19]

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.[20] 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.[21] It is stated that those who experience this disorder usually have had to show a history of major depressive or bipolar disorder. As well as that it may be hereditary, having a family member affected as well.

Seasonal affective disorder is caused by the diminishing of the exposure to environmental light. The lack of the serotonin chemical, causes the chance of reducing depression, regulating anxiety, and many other things from happening. There are currently a few treatment therapies in order to help with seasonal affective disorder. The first line of therapy is light therapy. With light therapy, one is exposed to bright, white light, and therefore has an antidepressant effect on SAD. Due to the shifts in one's neurochemical levels, antidepressants have become the second go to form of therapy. Other than light therapy and antidepressants, there are several alternative which involve agomelatine, melatonin, psychological interventions, as well as diet and lifestyle changes.[22]

It is formally researched that the onset of SAD typically occurs between the ages of 20–30 years, but most affected people do not seek medical help.[21] This could be due to the stigma on 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.[23] 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.[24] 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. 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.[24] 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.[25] 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 of modern western societies, such as the United States and European countries are directed towards individualism, while the eastern societies like China and Japan, are directed towards collectivism. Those of a collectivistic culture emphasize deeply on the unity one has with their families. They put others' needs before their individual desires. An individualistic culture is geared towards one's own personal achievements and it signals a strong sense of competition. They 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.[26] However both groups have their flaws. With an individualistic approach, one is inclined in possibly experiencing loneliness. Meanwhile, those in a collectivist culture, may be prone to having a dismay of rejection.


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 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. 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.


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. 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).

See also


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  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. Guindon, Sophie; Cappeliez, Philippe (2010-03-01). "Contributions of Psychological Well-Being and Social Support to an Integrative Model of Subjective Health in Later Adulthood". Ageing International. 35 (1): 38–60. doi:10.1007/s12126-009-9050-7. ISSN 0163-5158.
  9. Stubbe, J. H.; Posthuma, D.; Boomsma, D. I.; Geus, E. J. C. De (November 2005). "Heritability of life satisfaction in adults: a twin-family study". Psychological Medicine. 35 (11): 1581–1588. doi:10.1017/s0033291705005374. ISSN 1469-8978.
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