Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 207–221 | Cite as

Changes in Hedonic and Eudaimonic Well-Being After a Severe Nationwide Disaster: The Case of the Great East Japan Earthquake

  • Yukiko UchidaEmail author
  • Yoshiaki Takahashi
  • Kentaro Kawahara
Research Paper


This paper presents the results of a longitudinal survey (N = 10,744) that examined how the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011 affected the hedonic and eudaimonic well-being of young people in Japan outside of the afflicted area. Our dataset consists of Japanese citizens in their 20 and 30s from all non-afflicted prefectures. We conducted two surveys on well-being, one before the earthquake (December 2010) and one after (March 2011). The results suggested that people who were thinking about the earthquake when they completed the second survey had slightly increased general well-being after the earthquake as compared to before, showing that reflecting on the earthquake had prompted them to reevaluate their lives and increased eudaimonia. However, they experienced temporary negative emotional reactions more frequently, which shows that their sympathy for those in the afflicted area decreased their hedonic well-being. After the earthquake, Japanese youth were likely to value social connectedness and ordinary life. Moreover, this mindset promoted prosocial behaviors such as making donations and volunteering.


Disaster Hedonic well-being Eudaimonic well-being Social bond Prosocial behavior Culture 



This research was conducted by Economic and Social Research Institute, Cabinet Office, Government of Japan. The authors would like to thank Vinai Norasakkunkit, Norito Kawakami, and Andrew Clark for their comments on earlier versions of this article. 


  1. Back, M. D., Küfner, A. C. P., & Egloff, B. (2010). “Automatic or the people?”: Anger on September 11, 2011, and lessons learned for the analysis of large digital data sets. Psychological Science, 22, 837–838.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Delle Fave, A., Brdar, I., Freire, T., Vella-Brodrick, D., & Wissing, M. P. (2011). The Eudaimonic and hedonic components of happiness: Qualitative and quantitative findings. Social Indicators Research, 100, 185–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Dentsu Inc (2011, April 27). Change predictors of consciousness, lifestyle, and social systems: Support for a new-born Japan. Dentsu website. Retrieved from
  4. Frankenberg, E., Friedman, J., & Thomas, D. (2009). Medium-run consequences of disaster induced psycho-social disability: Evidence from Aceh. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  5. Greenfield, E. A., & Marks, N. F. (2004). Formal volunteering as a protective factor for older adult’s psychological well-being. Journals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 59B, 258–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Inglehart, R. (1997). Modernization and postmodernization: Cultural, economic, and political change in 43 societies. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Ishino, T., Kamesaka, A., Murai, T., & Ogaki, M. (2012). Effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake on subjective well-being. The paper presented at the 4th OECD World Forum, October 2012.Google Scholar
  8. JTB (2011, July 4). The results of the third survey of traveling behavior after the Great East Japan Earthquake. JTB news release, 48. Retrieved from
  9. Kahneman, D. (1999). Objective happiness. In D. Kahneman, E. Diener, & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Wellbeing: the foundations of hedonic psychology (pp. 3–25). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  10. Keyes, C. L. M. (2005). Mental illness and/or mental health? Investigating axioms of the complete state model of health. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73, 539–548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kimball, K., Levy, H., Ohtake, F., & Tsutsui, Y. (2006). Unhappiness after hurricane Katrina, NBER Working Papers 12062, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.Google Scholar
  12. Kitayama, S., Mesquita, B., & Karasawa, M. (2006). Cultural affordances and emotional experience: Socially engaging and disengaging emotions in Japan and the United States. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 890–903.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. McCann, L., & Pearlman, L. A. (1990). Vicarious traumatization: A framework for understanding the psychological effects of working with victims. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 3, 131–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Metcalfe, R., Powdthavee, N., & Dolan, P. (2011). Destruction and distress: Using a quasi-experiment to show the effects of the September 11 attacks on mental well-being. working Papers 1453, Imperial College, London, in the United Kingdom.Google Scholar
  15. Mikulincer, M., Florian, V., & Hirschberger, G. (2003). The existential function of close relationships: Introducing death into the science of love. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 7, 20–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Morrow-Howell, N., Hiterlong, J., Rozario, P. A., & Tang, F. (2003). Effects of volunteering on the well-being of older adults. Journals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 58, 137–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Nikkei Newspaper. (2011, June 12). How to deal with earthquake phobia? Nikkei Newspaper. Google Scholar
  18. Nishimoto, M., & Inoue, T. (2004). Change in the outlook on life after the earthquake disaster. Jinbun Ronkyu, 54, 72–86, Kwansai Gakuin University press.Google Scholar
  19. Nishizawa, N. (2004). The “self” of Japanese teenagers: Growing up in the flux of a changing culture and society. (Doctoral dissertation, Alliant International University, 2004). Dissertation Abstracts International, 65(5-B), 2642.Google Scholar
  20. Norasakkunkit, V., & Uchida, Y. (2011). Psychological consequences of post-industrial anomie on self and motivation among Japanese youth. Journal of Social Issues, 67, 774–786.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Piliavin, J. A., & Siegl, E. (2007). Health benefits of volunteering in the Wisconsin longitudinal study. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 48, 450–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2001). On happiness and human potentials: a review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. In S. Fiske (Ed.), Annual review of psychology (Vol. 52, pp. 141–166). Palo Alto: Annual Reviews Inc.Google Scholar
  23. Ryan, R. M., Huta, V., & Deci, E. L. (2008). Living well: A self-determination theory perspective on eudaimonia. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9, 139–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. H. (2008). Know thyself and become what you are: A eudaimonic approach to psychological well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9, 13–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Stephens, N. M., Hamedani, M. G., Markus, H. R., Bergsieker, H. B., & Eloul, L. (2009). Why did they “choose” to stay? Perspectives of hurricane Katrina observers and survivors. Psychological Science, 20, 878–886.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Theurer, K., & Wister, A. (2010). Altruistic bahavior and social capital as predictors of well-being among older Canadians. Ageing and Society, 30, 157–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Toivonen, T., Norasakkunkit, V., & Uchida, Y. (2011). Unable to conform, unwilling to rebel? Youth, culture and motivation in globalizing Japan. Frontiers in Cultural Psychology, 2, 207. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00207.Google Scholar
  28. Uchida, Y., & Ogihara, Y. (2012). Personal or interpersonal construal of happiness: A cultural psychological perspective. International Journal of Wellbeing, 2, 354–369. doi: 10.5502/ijw.v2.i4.5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Uchida, Y., Kitayama, S., Mesquita, B., Reyes, J. A. S., & Morling, B. (2008). Is perceived emotional support beneficial? Well-being and health in independent and interdependent cultures. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 741–754.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Uchida, Y., Takenishi, A., Kanagawa, C., Harada, A., Okawa, K., & Yabuno, H. (2012). The role of the media and journalists in the Great East Japan Earthquake: Coverage analysis and survey for journalist. Unpublished manuscript, Kyoto University.Google Scholar
  31. Weinstein, N., & Ryan, R. M. (2010). When helping helps: Autonomous motivation for prosocial behavior and its influence on well-being for the helper and recipient. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98, 222–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Westerhof, G. J., & Keyes, C. L. M. (2010). Mental illness and mental health: The two continua model across the lifespan. Journal of Adult Development, 17, 110–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yukiko Uchida
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yoshiaki Takahashi
    • 2
  • Kentaro Kawahara
    • 3
  1. 1.Kokoro Research CenterKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  2. 2.Tsukuba UniversityTsukubaJapan
  3. 3.Economic and Social Research InstituteCabinet Office, Government of JapanTokyoJapan

Personalised recommendations