Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 197–214 | Cite as

Measuring Meaning in Life

  • Jessica MorganEmail author
  • Tom Farsides
Research Paper


The present studies addressed the need for a comprehensive, economical, and psychometrically adequate measure of existential meaning. In Study 1, principal-axis factor analysis of participants’ responses to popular meaning measures identified five latent constructs underlying them, labelled purposeful life, principled life, valued life, exciting life, and accomplished life. These dimensions resonate with the meaning in life concept as understood by Frankl (1963. Man’s search for meaning. (Revised Ed.) London: Hodder & Stoughton) and the panoply of subsequent theoretical definitions (e.g. Battista and Almond. (1973). Psychiatry, 36, 409–427; 2000. Exploring existential meaning: Optimising human development across the life span (pp. 39–55). USA: Sage; 1998. The human quest for meaning: A handbook of psychological research and clinical applications (pp. 11–140). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum). Study 2 used these results as a foundation for developing a psychometrically satisfactory self-report questionnaire of each of these aspects of meaning in life. Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) validated a five-factor structure, with each factor loading on a common second-order factor. Study 3 provided evidence for this new measure’s convergent validity and economic property. The final Meaningful Life Measure is reported and provides comprehensive but differentiated measurement of the meaning in life construct.


Eudaimonic well-being Meaning in life Factor analysis Scale development 


  1. Adler, A. (1964). Social interest: A challenge to mankind. New York: Capricorn.Google Scholar
  2. Allport, G. (1961). Pattern and Growth in Personality. New York: Holt.Google Scholar
  3. Antonovsky, A. (1987). Unraveling the mystery of health: How people manage stress and stay well. London: Josey-Bass Ltd.Google Scholar
  4. Aristotle. (1985). Nicomachean ethics (T. Irwin, Trans.). Indianapolis: Hackett.Google Scholar
  5. Bandura, A., & Cervone, D. (1983). Self-evaluative and self-efficacy mechanisms governing the motivational effects of goal systems. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 1017–1028.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Battista, J., & Almond, R. (1973). The development of meaning in life. Psychiatry, 36, 409–427.Google Scholar
  7. Bentler, P. M. (1995). EQS structural equations program manual. Encino: Multivariate software.Google Scholar
  8. Bentler, P. M., & Yuan, K. -H. (1999). Structural equation modeling with small samples: Test statistics. Multivariate Behavioural Research, 34, 181–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Birnbaum, M. H. (2004). Human research and data collection via the internet. Annual Review of Psychology, 55, 803–832.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bonebright, C. A., Clay, D. L., & Ankenmann, R. D. (2000). The relationship of workaholism to work-life conflict, life satisfaction and purpose in life. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 47, 469–477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Browne, M. W., & Cudeck, R. (1993). Alternative ways of assessing model fit. In K. A. Bollen & J. S. Long (Eds.), Testing structural equation models (pp. 136–162). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  12. Byrne, B. M. (1994). Structural equation modeling with Eqs and Eqs/Windows: Basic concepts, applications, and programming. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  13. Chamberlain, K., & Zika, S. (1988). Measuring meaning in life: an examination of three scales. Personality and Individual Differences, 9, 589–596.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Costello, A. B., & Osborne, J. W. (2005). Best practices in exploratory factor analysis: Four recommendations for getting the most from your analysis. Practical Assessment, Research and Evaluation, 10, 1–9.Google Scholar
  15. Crumbaugh, J. C. (1968). Cross-validation of purpose in life test based on Frankl’s concepts. Journal of Individual Psychology, 24, 74–81.Google Scholar
  16. Crumbaugh, J. C., & Maholick, L. T. (1964). An experimental study in existentialism: The psychometric approach to Frankl’s concept of noogenic neurosis. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 20, 200–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Crumbaugh, J. C., & Maholick, L. T. (1969). Manual of instruction for the purpose in life test. Munster: Psychometric Affiliates.Google Scholar
  18. Debats, D. L. (1990). The life regard index: reliability and validity. Psychological Reports, 67, 27–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Debats, D. L. (1996). Meaning in life: clinical relevance and predictive power. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 35, 503–516.Google Scholar
  20. van Dierendonck, D. (2005). The construct validity of Ryff’s scales of psychological well-being and its extension with spiritual well-being. Personality and Individual Differences, 36, 629–643.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dufton, B. D., & Perlman, D. (1986). The association between religiosity and the purpose in life test: Does it reflect purpose or satisfaction? Journal of Psychology and Theology, 14, 42–48.Google Scholar
  22. Fabrigar, L. R., Wegener, D. T., MacCallum, R. C., & Strahan, E. J. (1999). Evaluating the use of exploratory factor analysis in psychological research. Psychological Methods, 4, 272–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Frankl, V. (1963). Man’s search for meaning (Revised ed.). London: Hodder & Stoughton.Google Scholar
  24. Frankl, V. (1967). Psychotherapy and existentialism. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  25. Fry, P. S. (2001). The unique contribution of key existential factors to the prediction of psychological well-being of older adults following spousal loss. The Gerontologist, 41, 69–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Garfield, C. (1973). A psychometric and clinical investigation of Frankl’s concept of existential vacuum and anomie. Psychiatry, 36, 396–408.Google Scholar
  27. James, W. (1902). Experience. In J. M. Baldwin (Eds.), Dictionary of philosophy and psychology, vol I. New York: Macmillian.Google Scholar
  28. Jöreskog, K., & Sörbom, D. (1993). LISREL 8: Structural equation modeling with the SIMPLIS command language. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  29. Jung, C. (1933). Modern man in search of a soul. New York: Harcourt.Google Scholar
  30. Kierkegaard, S. (1988). In H. V. Hong, & E. H. Hong (Eds.), Stages on life’s way: Studies by various persons. Princeton: University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Lent, R.W. (2004). Toward a unifying theoretical and practical perspective on well-being and psychosocial adjustment. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 51, 482–509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Linley, P. A., & Joseph, S. (Eds). (2004). Positive psychology in practice. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  33. Maddi, S. R. (1967). The existential neurosis. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 72, 311–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Maslow, A. H. (1962). Toward a psychology of being. New York: Van Nostrand.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Maslow, A. M. (1964). Religions, values, and peak experiences. New York: Viking Press.Google Scholar
  36. Mathes, E. W., Zevon, M. A., Roter, P. M., & Joerger, S. M. (1982). Peak experience tendencies: Scale development and theory testing. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 22, 92–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McGregor, I., & Little, B. R. (1998). Personal projects, happiness and meaning: On doing well and being yourself. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 494–512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Nix, G., Ryan, R. M., Manly, J. B., & Deci, E. L. (1999). Revitalisation through self-regulation: The effects of autonomous versus controlled motivation on happiness and vitality. Journal of Experimental and Social Psychology, 35, 266–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. O’Connor, K., & Chamberlain, K. (2000). Dimensions and discourses of meaning in life: Approaching meaning from qualitative perspectives. In G. T. Reker & K. Chamberlain (Eds.), Exploring existential meaning: Optimising human development across the life span (pp. 75–91). USA: Sage.Google Scholar
  40. Pearson, P. R., & Sheffield, B. F. (1989). Psychoticism and purpose in life. Personality and Individual Differences, 10, 1321–1322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Peterson, C., Park, N., & Seligman, M. (2005). Orientations to happiness and life satisfaction: The full life versus the empty life. Journal of Happiness Studies, 6, 25–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Reker, G. T. (1996). Manual: Sources of meaning profile revised. Peterborough, ON: Student Psychologists’ Press.Google Scholar
  43. Reker, G. T. (2000). Theoretical perspectives, dimensions and measurement of existential meaning. In G. T. Reker & K. Chamberlain (Eds.), Exploring existential meaning: Optimising human development across the life span (pp. 39–55). USA: Sage.Google Scholar
  44. Reker, G. T., & Chamberlain, K. (Eds.) (2000). Exploring existential meaning: Optimising human development across the life span. USA: Sage.Google Scholar
  45. Reker, G. T., & Fry, P. S. (2003). Factor structure and invariance of personal meaning measures in cohorts of younger and older adults. Personality and Individual Differences, 35, 977–993.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Rogers, C. R. (1951). Client-centered therapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  47. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2001). On happiness and human potentials: A review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 141–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Ryff, C. D. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 1069–1081.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Ryff, C. D. & Keyes, C. L. M. (1995). The structure of psychological well-being revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 719–727.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Satorra, A., & Bentler, P. M. (1994). Corrections to test statistics and standard errors in covariance structure analysis. In A. Von Eye & C. C. Clogg (Eds.), Latent variable analysis: Applications for developmental research (pp. 399–419). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  52. Seligman, M. E. P. (1991). Learned optimism. New York: Knopf.Google Scholar
  53. Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic happiness. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  54. Seligman, M. E. P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55, 5–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sharpe, D., & Viney, L. L. (1973). Weltanschauung and the purpose in life test. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 29, 489–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Solomon, S., Greenberg, J., & Pyszczynski, T. (2004). The cultural animal: Twenty years of terror management theory and research. In J. Greenberg, S. L. Koole, & T. A. Pyszczynski (Eds.). Handbook of experimental existential pscyhology. Guildford Press.Google Scholar
  57. Steger, M. F. (2006). An illustration of issues in factor extraction and identification of dimensionality in psychological assessment data. Journal of Personality Assessment, 86, 263–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Steger, M. F., Frazier, P., Oishi, S., & Kaler, M. (2006). The meaning in life questionnaire: Assessing the presence of and search for meaning in life. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53, 80–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Velicer, W. F., Eaton, C. A., & Fava, J. L. (2000). Construct explication through factor or component analysis: A review and evaluation of alternative procedures for determining the number of factors or components. In R. D. Goffin & D. Helms (Eds.), Problems and solutions in human assessment: Honoring Douglas N. Jackson at seventy (pp. 41–71). New York: Kluwer Academic.Google Scholar
  60. Waterman, A. S. (1993). Two conceptions of happiness: Contrasts of personal expressiveness (eudaimonia) and hedonic enjoyment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 678–691.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wong, P. T. P. (1998). Implicit theories of meaningful life and the development of the personal meaning profile. In P. T. P. Wong & P. S. Fry (Eds.), The human quest for meaning: A handbook of psychological research and clinical applications (pp. 11–140). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  62. Wong, P. T. P & Fry, P. S. (Eds.) (1998). The human quest for meaning: A handbook of psychological research and clinical applications. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  63. Yalom, I. D. (1980). Existential psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  64. Zika, S., & Chamberlain, K. (1992). On the relation between meaning in life and psychological well-being. British Journal of Psychology, 83, 133–145.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Social PsychologyUniversity of SussexBrightonUK

Personalised recommendations