Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 14, Issue 5, pp 1507–1527 | Cite as

Daily Activities and Happiness in Later Life: The Role of Work Status

  • Maja TadicEmail author
  • Wido G. M. Oerlemans
  • Arnold B. Bakker
  • Ruut Veenhoven
Research Paper


The aim of this study was to examine the role of work status (i.e. working versus not working) in the relationship between time-use and momentary happiness. We employed a longitudinal research design using monthly assessments via the day reconstruction method over 3 years among 579 older adults. In total, participants reported 84,247 daily activities and accompanying momentary happiness levels. Hierarchical linear modeling results revealed that working older individuals are not happier than nonworking individuals in the overall. However, involvement in work as a daily activity does coincide with higher levels of momentary happiness. Furthermore, working older individuals experience more happiness during relaxing activities, and during weekends, whereas nonworking older individuals experience more happiness during administrative activities. These findings provide novel information on intraindividual differences in lifestyle relating to the everyday happiness between working and nonworking older people which cannot be accurately captured by global survey methods.


Aging Happiness Day reconstruction method Retirement Time-use 



The data reported in this paper are from a panel study among older adults people in The Netherlands: Levensstijl en Levensvoldoening in de derde Levensfase [Life-style and Life-satisfaction in the Third Age]. This project was initiated by Ruut Veenhoven and Lyanda Vermeulen-Kerstens of the Erasmus University of Rotterdam. The project is still going on, the current managing investigators are Sanne van Herpen and Wido Oerlemans. Information is available at Herpen, S. van, L. Vermeulen-Kerstens, and R. Veenhoven (2008). De levensstijl van vijftig-plussers (Life-style and Life-satisfaction in the Third Age). Erasmus University of Rotterdam, Rotterdam.


  1. Abdel-Khalek, A. M. (2006). Measuring happiness with a single-item scale. Social Behavior and Personality, 34, 139–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Atchley, R. C. (1999). Continuity Theory, Self, and Social Structure. In C. D. Ryff & V. Marshall (Eds.), The self and society in aging processes (pp. 94–121). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  3. Bäckman, L. & Dixon, R. A. (1992). Psychological compensation: A theoretical framework. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 259–283.Google Scholar
  4. Bakker, A. B., & Oerlemans, W. (2011). Subjective well-being in organizations. In K. S. Cameron & G. M. Spreitzer (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of positive organizational scholarship (pp. 178–189). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. 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
  6. Baltes, P. B., & Baltes, M. M. (1990). Psychological perspectives on successful aging: The model of selective optimization with compensation. In E. B. Baltes & M. M. Baltes (Eds.), Successful aging: Perspectives from the behavioral sciences (pp. 1–34). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Baltes, M. M., & Lang, F. R. (1997). Everyday functioning and successful aging: The impact of resources. Psychology and Aging, 12, 433–443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bye, D., & Pushkar, D. (2009). How need for cognition and perceived control are differentially linked to emotional outcomes in the transition to retirement. Motivation and Emotion, 33, 320–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Calvo, E. (2006). Does working longer make people healthier and happier? Work opportunities for older Americans series. Chestnut Hill: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.Google Scholar
  10. Calvo, E., Haverstick, K., & Sass, S. A. (2009). Gradual retirement, sense of control, and retirees’ happiness. Research on Aging, 31, 112–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carstensen, L. L., Turan, B., Scheibe, S., Ram, N., Ersner-Hershfield, H., Samanez-Larkin, G. R., et al. (2011). Emotional experience improves with age: Evidence based on over 10 years of experience sampling. Psychology and Aging, 26, 21–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek. (2012). Statistics Netherlands. Retrieved from
  13. Cheng, H., & Furnham, A. (2003). Personality, self-esteem, and demographic predictions of happiness and depression. Personality and Individual Differences, 34, 921–942.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dawson, D., Winocur, G., & Moscovitch, M. (1999). The psychological environment and cognitive rehabilitation in the elderly. In D. T. Stuss, G. Winocur, & I. H. Robertson (Eds.), Cognitive neurorehabilitation (pp. 94–108). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Demerouti, E., Bakker, A. B., Geurts, S. A. E., & Taris, T. W. (2009). Daily recovery from work-related effort during non-work time. In S. Sonnentag, P. L. Perrewé, & D. C. Ganster (Eds.), Current perspectives on job-stress recovery: Research in occupational stress and well being (Vol. 7, pp. 85–123). Bingley, UK: JAI Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Diener, E., Sandvik, E., & Larsen, R. J. (1985). Age and sex effects for emotional intensity. Developmental Psychology, 21, 542–546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Diener, E., Sandvik, E., & Pavot, W. (1991). Happiness is the frequency, not the intensity, of positive versus negative affect. In F. Strack, M. Argyle, & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Subjective well-being: An interdis-ciplinary perspective. New York: Pergamon.Google Scholar
  18. Dockray, S., Grant, N., Stone, A. A., Kahneman, D., Wardle, J., & Steptoe, A. (2010). A comparison of affect ratings obtained with ecological momentary assessment and the day reconstruction method. Social Indicators Research, 99, 269–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Egloff, B., Tausch, A., Kohlmann, C., & Krohne, H. W. (1995). Relationships between time of day, day of the week, and positive mood: Exploring the role of the mood measure. Motivation and Emotion, 19, 99–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56, 218–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fujita, F., Diener, E., & Sandvik, E. (1991). Gender differences in negative affect and well-being: The case for emotional intensity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 427–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gauthier, A. H., & Smeeding, T. M. (2003). Time-use at older ages: Cross-national differences. Research on Aging, 25, 247–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Herero, V. G., & Extremera, N. (2010). Daily life activities as mediators of the relationship between personality variables and subjective well-being among older adults. Personality and Individual Differences, 49, 124–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Herzog, A. R., Franks, M. M., Markus, H. R., & Holmberg, D. (1998). Activities and well-being in older age: Effects of self-concept and educational attainment. Psychology of aging, 13, 79–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Herzog, A. R., & House, J. S. (1991). Productive activities and aging well. Generations: Journal of the American Society on Aging, 15, 49–54.Google Scholar
  26. Hoppmann, C. A., Gerstorf, D., Smith, J., & Klumb, P. L. (2007). Linking possible selves and behavior: Do domain-specific hopes and fears translate into daily activities in very old age? Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Science, 62B, 104–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hox, J. (2002). Multilevel analysis: Techniques and applications. NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates; Mahwah.Google Scholar
  28. Inal, S., Subasi, F., Ay, S. M., & Hayran, O. (2007). The link between health-related behaviours and life satisfaction in elderly individuals who prefer institutional living. BMC Health Services Research, 7, 30–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jaeger, M. M. & Holm, A. (2004). How stressful is retirement? New evidence from a longitudinal, fixed-effects analysis. Center for applied microeconomics working paper, 2004-19. Retrieved on March 12, 2011. From:
  30. Kahneman, D., & Krueger, A. B. (2006). Developments in the measurement of subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20, 3–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kahneman, D., Krueger, A. B., Schkade, D. A., Schwarz, N., & Stone, A. A. (2004). A survey method for characterizing daily life experience: The day reconstruction method. Science, 3, 1776–1780.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kahneman, D., Krueger, A. B., Schkade, D., Schwarz, N., & Stone, A. A. (2006). Would you be happier if you were richer? A focusing illusion. Science, 312, 1908–1910.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kennedy-Moore, E., Greenberg, M. A., Newman, M. G., & Stone, A. A. (1992). The relationship between daily events and mood: The mood measure may matter. Motivation and Emotion, 16, 143–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kim, J. E., & Moen, P. (2001). Is retirement good or bad for subjective well-being? Retirement as a life course transition in time and in ecological context. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 10, 83–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kim, J. E., & Moen, P. (2002). Retirement transitions, gender, and psychological well-being: A life-course, ecological model. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 57B, 212–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lawton, M. P., Winter, L., Kleban, M. H., & Ruckdeschel, K. (1999). Affect and quality of life. Journal of Aging and Health, 11, 169–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lemon, B. W., Begtson, V. L., & Peterson, J. A. (1972). An exploration of the activity theory of aging: Activity types and life satisfaction among in-movers to a retirement community. Journal of Gerontology, 27, 511–523.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lyubomirsky, S., King, L. A., & Diener, E. (2005a). The benefits of frequent positive affect. Psychological Bulletin, 131, 803–855.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005b). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9, 111–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Maier, H., & Klumb, P. L. (2005). Social participation and survival at older ages: Is the effect driven by activity content or context? European Journal of Ageing, 2, 31–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. McKenna, K., Broome, K., & Liddle, J. (2007). What older people do: Time use and exploring the link between role participation and life satisfaction in people aged 65 years and over. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 54, 273–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Meijman, T. F., & Mulder, G. (1998). Psychological aspects of workload. In P. J. Drenth, H. Thierry, & C. J. de Wolff (Eds.), Handbook of work and organizational psychology (2nd ed., pp. 5–33). Hove, UK: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  43. Menec, V. H. (2003). The relation between everyday activities and successful aging: A 6-year longitudinal study. The Journals of gerontology Series B, Psychological sciences and social sciences, 58, 74–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Miron-Shatz, T., Stone, A., & Kahneman, D. (2009). Memories of yesterday’s emotions: Does the valence of experience affect the memory-experience gap? Emotion, 9, 885–891.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Nimrod, G. (2007). Expanding, reducing, concentrating and diffusing: Post retirement leisure behavior and life satisfaction. Leisure Sciences, 29, 91–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Oerlemans, W. G. M., Bakker, A. B., & Veenhoven, R. (2011). Finding the key to happy aging: A day reconstruction study of happiness. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 66B, 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (2008). The satisfaction with life scale and the emerging construct of life satisfaction. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 3, 137–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Penedo, F. J., & Dahn, J. R. (2005). Exercise and well-being: a review of mental and physical health benefits associated with physical activity. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 18, 189–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Preacher, K. J., Curran, P. J., & Bauer, D. J. (2006). Computational tools for probing interactions in multiple linear regression, multilevel modeling, and latent curve analysis. Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, 31, 437–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Preacher, K. J. Curran, P. J., & Bauer, D. J. (2012). Simple intercepts, simple slopes, and regions of significance in HLM 2-way interactions. Retrieved from
  51. Pushkar, D., Chaikelson, J., Conway, M., Etezadi, J., Giannopoulus, C., Li, K., et al. (2010). Testing continuity and activity variables as predictors of positive and negative affect in retirement. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 65B, 42–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rasbash, J, Browne, W. J., Healy, M., Cameron, B., & Charlton, C. (2000). The MLwin software package, version 1.10. London: Institute of Education.Google Scholar
  53. Reis, H. T., Sheldon, K. M., Gable, S., Roscoe, J., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). Daily well-being: The role of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26, 419–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Robinson, M. D., & Clore, G. L. (2002). Belief and feeling: Evidence for an accessibility model of emotional self- report. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 934–960.Google Scholar
  55. Rosenkoetter, M. M., Garris, J. M., & Engdahl, R. A. (2001). Postretirement use of time: Implications for pre-retirement planning and postretirement management. Activities, Adaptation & Aging, 25, 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Russell, J. A. (2003). Core affect and the psychological construction of emotion. Psychological Review, 110, 145–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. 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.Google Scholar
  58. Schulz, R., & Heckhausen, J. (1996). A life span model of successful aging. American Psychologist, 51, 702–714.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Schwarz, N., Kahneman, D., & Xu, J. (2009). Global and episodic reports of hedonic experience. In R. Belli, F. P. Stafford, & D. F. Alwin (Eds.), Calendar and time diary methods in life course research (pp. 157–174). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  60. Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  61. Shmotkin, D. (1990). Subjective well-being as a function of age and gender: A multivariate look for differentiated trends. Social Indicators Research, 23, 201–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Silverstein, M., & Parker, M. G. (2002). Leisure activities and quality of life among the oldest old in Sweden. Research on Aging, 24(5), 528–547.Google Scholar
  63. Snijders, T. A. B., & Bosker, R. J. (1999). Multilevel analysis: An introduction to basic and advanced multilevel modeling. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  64. Sonnentag, S. (2001). Work, recovery activities, and individual well-being: A diary study. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 6, 196–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Sonnentag, S. (2003). Recovery, work engagement, and proactive behavior: A new look at the interface between nonwork and work. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88, 518–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Sonnentag, S., & Bayer, U. (2005). Switching off mentally: Predictors and consequences of psychological detachment from work during off-job time. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 10, 393–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Stanley, M. (1995). An investigation into the relationship between engagement in valued occupations and life satisfaction for elderly South Australians. Journal of Occupational Science, 2, 100–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Stone, A. A., Schwarz, N., Schkade, D., Krueger, A., & Kahneman, D. (2006). A population approach to the study of emotion: Diurnal rhythms of a working day examined with the day reconstruction method. Emotion, 6, 139–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Veenhoven, R (2008a). Yesterday’s diary. RISBO contract research, Erasmus University Rotterdam. Retrieved from: on April 15, 2009.
  70. Veenhoven, R. (2008b). Healthy happiness: effects of happiness on physical health and the consequences for preventive health care. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9, 449–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Veenhoven, R. (2009). How do we assess how happy we are? In A. K. Dutt & B. Radcliff (Eds.), Happiness, economics and politics: Towards a multi-disciplinary approach (pp. 45–69). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elger Publishers.Google Scholar
  72. Veenhoven, R. & Vermeulen, L. (2008). Levensstijl en levensvoldoening in de derde levemsfase [Lifestyle and life-satisfaction in the third age]. Research report, RISBO, Erasmus University Rotterdam.Google Scholar
  73. Wang, M. (2007). Profiling retirees in the retirement transition and adjustment process: Examining the longitudinal change patterns of retirees’ psychological well-being. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 455–474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Wang, J. Y. J., Zhou, D. H. D., Li, J., Zhang, M., Deng, J., Tang, M., et al. (2006). Leisure activity and risk of cognitive impairment: The Chongqing aging study. Neurology, 66, 911–913.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maja Tadic
    • 1
    Email author
  • Wido G. M. Oerlemans
    • 2
  • Arnold B. Bakker
    • 2
  • Ruut Veenhoven
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Social Sciences Ivo PilarZagrebCroatia
  2. 2.Erasmus University RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations