Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 313–331 | Cite as

Is Searching for Meaning in Life Associated With Reduced Subjective Well-Being? Confirmation and Possible Moderators

  • Karen CohenEmail author
  • David Cairns


Meaning in life has been identified as an important element of well-being. Recently attention has been directed to examining the differences between having meaning in life and searching for meaning in life. Theory has speculated that if an individual is searching for meaning in life, he/she may be distressed. Researchers of late have begun to focus on the process of searching for meaning in life to gain a better understanding of the individual differences which may exist. Interest has also been directed towards exploring whether any moderators of the possible negative effects of the searching process may exist. This research investigated the hypothesised negative link between high levels of searching for meaning in life and subjective well-being and the positive moderating effects of presence of meaning in life while also exploring the influence of the demographic variables which were treated as control variables. From an exploratory stance further analysis examined the hypothesised positive moderating effects of self-actualisation, self-efficacy and achievement motives on the relationship between searching for meaning and subjective well-being. One study (n = 500) was conducted to assess the hypothesized relationships. The study confirmed the negative relationship between high levels of searching for meaning in life and subjective well-being and positive moderating effects that presence of meaning in life and self-actualisation have on happiness scores when individuals are searching for meaning in life. Self-efficacy and achievement motives were shown to have no significant moderating effects on searching for meaning in life and subjective wellbeing. Overall the results suggest that individuals who record high levels of searching for meaning in life are protected from the negative outcomes of this process by holding high levels of presence of meaning in life and self-actualisation.


Search for meaning in life Subjective well-being Self actualisation Self efficacy Achievement motivation 



The author likes to acknowledge the assistance that Alan Taylor provided in finalising this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Macquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.RosevilleAustralia

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