Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 19, Issue 8, pp 2465–2487 | Cite as

Lifespan Differences in a Self Determination Theory Model of Eudaimonia: A Cross-Sectional Survey of Younger, Middle-Aged, and Older Adults

  • Corey S. MackenzieEmail author
  • Eric C. Karaoylas
  • Katherine B. Starzyk
Research Paper


Despite the myriad physical, cognitive, and social losses that are increasingly common as we age, a growing body of evidence suggests that aging is positively associated with mental health and well-being. The majority of this evidence is in the form of mental health, personality, and subjective/hedonic well-being outcomes; far less is known about lifespan differences in eudaimonic well-being. The objective of this study was to examine differences across three age groups in a relatively recent model of eudaimonia informed by self-determination theory that focuses on the process of living well, but also acknowledges outcomes of that process. In comparison to young (n = 66) and middle-aged adults (n = 66), older adults (n = 66) were especially likely to be living eudaimonically (i.e., to have intrinsic aspirations, goal autonomy, mindfulness, and basic psychological need fulfillment). The effect of age on well-being outcomes was mixed; the oldest group reported the highest levels of life satisfaction (hedonic well-being) but the lowest levels of purpose and growth (eudaimonic well-being) in comparison to their younger counterparts. As predicted by the model, basic psychological need fulfillment mediated the relationship between motivational constructs and well-being outcomes. Furthermore, the model applied equally well to younger, middle-aged, and older adults. Our results are consistent with recent theoretical models emphasizing the socioemotional benefits of aging, as well as potential challenges to well-being that exist in later life.


Eudaimonia Subjective well-being Psychological well-being Life satisfaction Hedonic well-being Aging Gerontology Lifespan Self-determination theory 



The research described in this article was conducted as part of the second author’s Master’s thesis research project. Funding was provided by Manitoba Health Research Council (Establishment Grant).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The study received ethics approval from the University of Manitoba’s Research Ethics Board (which required that all participants provide informed consent).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada
  2. 2.Department of Applied Psychology and Human DevelopmentOntario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of TorontoTorontoCanada

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