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


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.


Aging Happiness Well-being Hedonia Eudaimonia 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

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

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