Advertisement

Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 79–101 | Cite as

Age-Related Differences in Lay Conceptions of Well-Being and Experienced Well-Being

  • Ethan A. McMahanEmail author
  • David Estes
Article

Abstract

Conceptions of well-being are defined as a system of beliefs concerning the nature and experience of well-being and can be described generally by the degree to which four dimensions, representing (1) the experience of pleasure, (2) avoidance of negative experience, (3) selfdevelopment, and (4) contribution to others, are emphasized. A first main objective of the current study was to investigate age-related differences in younger and older adults’ conceptions of well-being. A second main objective was to address whether conceptions of well-being are differentially associated with experienced well-being in younger and older adults. Results indicated several age-related differences in conceptions of well-being, with younger adults reporting more emphasis on the experience of pleasure and self-development, older adults reporting more emphasis on avoidance of negative experience, and younger and older adults reporting similar levels of emphasis on contribution to others. Results further indicated several age-related differences in associations between the experience of pleasure and avoidance of negative experience dimensions and well-being, with these two dimensions being more strongly and positively associated with well-being in older adults. Self-development and contribution to others were found to be positively associated with well-being regardless of age.

Keywords

Aging Happiness Well-being Hedonia Eudaimonia 

References

  1. Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  2. Aldwin, C. M. (1990). The elders life stress inventory: Egocentric and nonegocentric stress. In M. A. P. Stephens, S. E. Hobfoll, J. H. Crowther, & D. L. Tennenbaum (Eds.), Stress and coping in later life families (pp. 49–69). Washington, DC: Hemisphere.Google Scholar
  3. Arbuckle, J. L. (2009). Amos 18.0. Crawfordville, FL: Amos Development Corp.Google Scholar
  4. Baggini, J. (2004). What’s it all about? Philosophy and the meaning of life. New York: Granta Books.Google Scholar
  5. Baltes, P. B. (1987). Theoretical propositions of lifespan developmental psychology: On the dynamics of growth and decline. Developmental Psychology, 23, 611–626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baltes, P. B. (1997). On the incomplete architecture of human ontogeny: Selection, optimization, and compensation as foundation of developmental theory. American Psychologist, 52, 366–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baltes, P. B., & Baltes, M. M. (1990). Psychological perspectives on successful aging: The model of selective optimization with compensation. In P. B. Baltes & M. M. Baltes (Eds.), Successful aging: Perspectives from the behavioral sciences (pp. 1–34). New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Baltes, M. M., & Carstensen, L. L. (1996). The process of successful ageing. Ageing and Society, 16, 397–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Basabe, N., & Valencia, J. (2007). Culture of peace: Sociostructural dimensions, cultural values, and emotional climate. Journal of Social Issues, 63, 405–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Berenguer, J., Corraliza, J. A., & Martin, R. (2005). Rural-urban differences in environmental concern, attitudes, and actions. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 21, 128–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bloom, A. (1991). The republic of Plato. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  12. Carstensen, L. L. (1995). Evidence for a life-span theory of socioemotional selectivity. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 4, 151–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Carstensen, L. L. (2006). The influence of a sense of time on human development. Science, 312, 1913–1915.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Carstensen, L. L., & Fredrickson, B. F. (1998). Socioemotional selectivity in healthy older people and younger people living with the human immunodeficiency virus: The centrality of emotion when the future is constrained. Health Psychology, 17, 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Carstensen, L. L., Gottman, J. M., & Levenson, R. W. (1995). Emotional behavior in long-term marriage. Psychology and Aging, 10, 140–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Carstensen, L. L., Isaacowitz, D. M., & Charles, S. T. (1999). Taking time seriously: A theory of socioemotional selectivity. American Psychologist, 54, 165–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Carstensen, L. L., Pasupathi, M., Mayr, U., & Nesselroade, J. R. (2000). Emotional experience in everyday life across the adult life span. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 644–655.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Carstensen, L. L., & Turk-Charles, S. (1994). The salience of emotion across the adult life course. Psychology and Aging, 9, 259–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Cavanaugh, J. C., & Blanchard-Fields, F. (2002). Adult development and aging (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  20. Charles, S. T., & Carstensen, L. L. (2008). Unpleasant situations elicit different emotional responses in younger and older adults. Psychological Aging, 23, 495–504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Charles, S. T., Reynolds, C. A., & Gatz, M. (2001). Age-related differences and change in positive and negative affect over 23 years. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 136–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Cheung, G. W., & Rensvold, R. B. (2002). Evaluating goodness-of-fit indexes for testing measurement invariance. Structural Equation Modeling, 9, 233–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Corwyn, R. F. (2000). The factor structure of global self-esteem among adolescents and adults. Journal of Research in Personality, 34, 357–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Csikszentmihalyi, M., & LeFevre, J. (1989). Optimal experience in work and leisure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 815–822.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2008). Hedonia, eudaimonia, and well-being: An introduction. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9, 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. DeNeve, K. M., & Cooper, H. (1998). The happy personality: A meta-analysis of 137 personality traits and subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 124, 197–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larson, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 71–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Diener, E., & Lucas, R. E. (1999). Personality and subjective well-being. In D. Kahneman, E. Diener, & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology (pp. 213–229). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  29. Diener, E., Smith, H., & Fujita, F. (1995). The personality structure of affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 130–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 276–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Diener, E., Wirtz, D., Tov, W., Kim-Prieto, C., Choi, D., Oishi, S., et al. (2010). New well-being measures: Short scales to assess flourishing and positive and negative feelings. Social Indicators Research, 97, 143–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ebner, N. C., Freund, A. M., & Baltes, P. B. (2006). Developmental changes in personal goal orientation from young to late adulthood: From striving for gains to maintenance and prevention of loss. Psychology and Aging, 21, 664–678.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Erikson, E. (1959). Identity and the life cycle. New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  34. Fleeson, W., & Heckhausen, J. (1997). More or less ‘me’ in past, present, and future: Perceived lifetime personality during adulthood. Psychology and Aging, 12, 125–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Folstein, M. F., Folstein, S. E., & McHugh, P. R. (1975). Mini-mental state: A practical method for grading the cognitive state of patients for the clinician. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 12, 189–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Freund, A. M., & Baltes, P. B. (1998). Selection, optimization, and compensation as strategies of life management: Correlations with subjective indicators of successful aging. Psychology and Aging, 13, 531–543.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Freund, A. M., & Baltes, P. B. (2002). Life-management strategies of selection, optimization, and compensation: Measurement by self-report and construct validity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 642–662.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Gross, J. J., Carstensen, L. L., Pasupathi, M., Tsai, J., Skorpen, C., & Hsu, A. Y. C. (1997). Emotion and aging: Experience, expression, and control. Psychology and Aging, 12, 590–599.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Grouzet, F. M. E., Kasser, T., Ahuvia, A., Fernandez Dols, J. M., Kim, Y., Lau, S., et al. (2005). The structure of goal contents across 15 cultures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 800–816.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Heckhausen, J. (1997). Developmental regulation across adulthood: Primary and secondary control of age-related changes. Developmental Psychology, 33, 176–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Heine, S. J., Proulx, T., & Vohs, K. D. (2006). The meaning maintenance model: On the coherence of social motivations. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10, 88–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Henson, R. K., & Roberts, J. K. (2006). Use of exploratory factor analysis in published research: Common errors and some comment on improved practice. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 66, 393–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Hu, L., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indices in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling, 6, 1–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Isaacowitz, D. M., Wadlinger, H. A., Goren, D., & Wilson, H. R. (2006). Is there an age-related positivity effect in visual attention? A comparison of two methodologies. Emotion, 6, 511–516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Kahneman, D., Diener, E., & Schwarz, N. (1999). Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  46. Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M. (1993). A dark side of the American dream: Correlates of financial success as a central life aspiration. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 410–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M. (1996). Further examining the American dream: Differential correlates of intrinsic and extrinsic goals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 280–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. King, L. A., & Napa, C. K. (1998). What makes life good? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 156–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Lefkowitz, E. S., & Fingerman, K. L. (2003). Positive and negative emotional feelings and behaviors in mother-daughter ties in later life. Journal of Family Psychology, 17, 607–617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Lucas, R. E., Diener, E., & Larson, R. J. (2003). Measuring positive emotions. In S. J. Lopez & C. R. Snyder (Eds.), Positive psychological assessment: A handbook of models and measures (pp. 201–218). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Lyubomirsky, S. (2001). Why are some people happier than others? The role of cognitive and motivational processes in well-being. American Psychologist, 56, 239–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Lyubomirsky, S., & Lepper, H. S. (1999). A measure of subjective happiness: Preliminary reliability and construct validation. Social Indicators Research, 46, 137–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Mather, M., & Carstensen, L. L. (2003). Aging and attentional biases for emotional faces. Psychological Science, 14, 409–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. McMahan, E. A., & Estes, D. (2010a). Measuring lay conceptions of well-being: The beliefs about well-being scale. Journal of Happiness Studies. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s10902-010-9194-x.
  55. McMahan, E. A., & Estes, D. (2010b). Hedonic versus eudaimonic conceptions of well-being: Evidence of differential associations with experienced well-being. Social Indicators Research. Advance online publication. doi:  10.1007/s11205-010-9698-0.
  56. Miner-Rubino, K., Winter, D. G., & Stewart, A. J. (2004). Gender, social class, and the subjective experience of aging: Self-perceived personality change from early adulthood to late midlife. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 1599–1610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Ng, A. K., Ho, D. Y. F., Wong, S. S., & Smith, I. (2003). In search of the good life: A cultural odyssey in the East and West. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs, 129, 317–363.Google Scholar
  58. Park, L. C., & Folkman, S. (1997). Meaning in the context of stress and coping. Review of General Psychology, 2, 115–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Park, N., Peterson, C., & Ruch, W. (2009). Orientations to happiness and life satisfaction in twenty-seven nations. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4, 273–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Peterson, C., Park, N., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2005). Orientations to happiness and life satisfaction: The full life versus the empty life. Journal of Happiness Studies, 6, 25–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Pflug, J. (2009). Folk theories of happiness: A cross-cultural comparison of conceptions of happiness in Germany and South Africa. Social Indicators Research, 92, 551–563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Rook, K. S. (2000). The evolution of social relationships in later adulthood. In S. H. Qualls & N. Abeles (Eds.), Psychology and the aging revolution: How we adapt to longer life (pp. 173–191). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  64. Russell, B. (1946). A history of western philosophy. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  65. 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
  66. Ryan, R. M., & Frederick, C. M. (1997). On energy, personality, and health: Subjective vitality as a dynamic reflection of well-being. Journal of Personality, 65, 529–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Ryff, C. D. (1982). Self-perceived personality change in adulthood and aging. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42, 108–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Ryff, C. D. (1987). The place of personality and social structure research in social psychology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 1192–1202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Ryff, C. D. (1989a). 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
  70. Ryff, C. D. (1989b). Beyond Ponce de Leon and life satisfaction: New directions in the quest for successful ageing. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 12, 35–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Ryff, C. D. (1991). Possible selves in adulthood and old age: A tale of shifting horizons. Psychology and Aging, 6, 286–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Ryff, C. D., & Baltes, P. B. (1976). Value transition and adult development in women: The instrumental-terminality sequence hypothesis. Developmental Psychology, 12, 567–568.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Ryff, C. D., & Heincke, S. G. (1983). Subjective organization of personality in adulthood and aging. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44, 807–816.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. (1998). The contours of positive human health. Psychological Inquiry, 9, 1–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. (2008). Know thyself and become what you are: A eudaimonic approach to psychological well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9, 13–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Schwartz, S. H., & Rubel, T. (2005). Sex differences in value priorities: Cross-cultural and multimethod studies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 1010–1028.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Sheldon, K. M., & Elliot, A. J. (1999). Goal striving, need satisfaction, and longitudinal well-being: The self-concordance model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 482–497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Shiota, M. N., & Levensen, R. W. (2009). Effects of aging on experimentally instructed detached reappraisal, positive reappraisal, and emotional behavior expression. Psychology and Aging, 24, 890–900.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Steger, M. F., Frazier, P., Oishi, S., & Kaler, M. (2006). The meaning in life questionnaire: Assessing the presence and search for meaning in life. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53, 80–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Steger, M. F., Kashdan, T. B., & Oishi, S. (2008). Being good by doing good: Daily eudaimonic activity and well-being. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 22–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Tseng, W. C. (2007). A study of folk concepts of the good life and subjective well-being among college students. Bulletin of Educational Psychology, 38, 417–441.Google Scholar
  82. 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
  83. Waterman, A. S. (2005). When effort is enjoyed: Two studies of intrinsic motivation for personally salient activities. Motivation and Emotion, 29, 165–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Waterman, A. S., Schwartz, S. J., & Conti, R. (2008). The implications of two conceptions of happiness (hedonic enjoyment and eudaimonia) for the understanding of intrinsic motivation. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9, 41–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Wheeler, L., & Reis, H. T. (1991). Self-recording of everyday life events: Origins, types, and uses. Journal of Personality, 59, 339–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Williamson, G. M., & Christie, J. (2009). Aging well in the 21st century: Challenges and opportunities. In S. J. Lopez & C. R. Snyder (Eds.), Oxford handbook of positive psychology (pp. 165–169). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology DivisionWestern Oregon UniversityMonmouthUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WyomingLaramieUSA

Personalised recommendations