Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 1323–1341 | Cite as

Hedonic and Eudaimonic Motives: Associations with Academic Achievement and Negative Emotional States Among Urban College Students

  • Maria Kryza-Lacombe
  • Elise Tanzini
  • Sarah O’NeillEmail author
Research Paper


College students from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds are at risk for poorer academic outcomes and greater psychopathology and it is important to identify factors that are amenable to intervention and enhance college outcomes. Recent literature has entertained happiness as a potential predictor of various success outcomes and it has been suggested that parsing the concept of happiness into hedonia (seeking pleasure and relaxation) and eudaimonia (seeking meaning) may be particularly useful. This study examined the relations between hedonic and eudaimonic motives for action and student outcomes; that is, academic achievement and their negative emotional states, in an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse urban college population. Undergraduate students (N = 119; mean age = 21.24 [SD = 3.16] years; 59.7% female) completed self-reported measures of hedonic and eudaimonic motives for action, and depression, anxiety, and stress. Semester GPA was collected from school records. Hedonic motives for action (“Hedonia”) were not associated with GPA or students’ negative emotional states. Eudaimonic motives for action (“Eudaimonia”), however, were significantly positively associated with GPA, Individuals with high levels of both Hedonia and Eudaimonia (the Full Life) had higher GPAs compared to individuals with low Eudaimonia, but did not differ from students with high Eudaimonia and low Hedonia (Eudaimonic Life). Eudaimonia was also significantly negatively associated with Depression and Stress, and individuals high in Eudaimonia had the lowest levels of both of these outcomes compared to those with low Eudaimonia. Eudaimonic motives may be important for more desirable college outcomes, and interventions that promote development of this domain may hold promise.


Hedonia Eudaimonia College Academic success Stress Psychological distress 



We gratefully acknowledge the research assistants of the O’Neill lab for their assistance in data collection, Georg Matt, Ph.D., for his consultations on statistical analysis, and Jillian Lee Wiggins, Ph.D., for her comments on an early version of the manuscript. We thank the students for participating.


This publication was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number SC2HD086868 (PI: Sarah O’Neill, PhD). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Kryza-Lacombe
    • 1
  • Elise Tanzini
    • 2
  • Sarah O’Neill
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.San Diego State University/University of California, San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical PsychologySan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Centre for Addiction and Mental HealthTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Psychology Department, The City College of New York and The Graduate CenterCity University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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