Directionality of the relationship between social well-being and subjective well-being: evidence from a 20-year longitudinal study
Self-determination theory suggests that psycho-social well-being prospectively predicts subjective well-being. In contrast, the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions suggests that subjective well-being has a positive impact on subsequent levels of psycho-social well-being. The present study sought to empirically disentangle the directionality of the relationship between subjective well-being and social well-being over time.
The study used three waves of survey data, with intervals of 10 years, from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) project, a representative longitudinal panel study of American adults (N = 2732). Cross-lagged panel modeling was used for data analysis.
The results revealed that social well-being predicted increases in subsequent subjective well-being, whereas subjective well-being did not prospectively predict social well-being. Social well-being also demonstrated more stability over time than did subjective well-being.
These findings suggest that optimal social functioning is more likely to be an antecedent to subjective well-being, not the other way around. The results are consistent with predictions guided by self-determination theory.
KeywordsSubjective well-being Social well-being Longitudinal Hedonic well-being Eudaimonic well-being
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflicts of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest
All procedures performed in this study are in accordance with the conventional ethical standards. We used the data from the national survey of midlife development in the United States. For more information about the data collection procedures, see http://midus.wisc.edu/index.php.
Informed consent has been obtained from all participants included in the study. For more information, see http://midus.wisc.edu/index.php.
- 6.Brown, T. A. (2015). Confirmatory factor analysis for applied research. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- 12.Davies, W. (2015). The happiness industry: How the government and big business sold us well-being. London: Verso.Google Scholar
- 19.Elder, G. H. Jr. (1979). Historical change in life patterns and personality. In P. B. Baltes & O. G. Brim, Jr. (Eds.), Life-span development and behavior (Vol. 2, pp. 117–159). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
- 23.Graham, J. W., & Coffman, D. L. (2012). Structural equation modeling with missing data. In R. Hoyle (Ed.), Handbook of structural equation modeling. New York, NY: Guilford.Google Scholar
- 27.Helliwell, J. F., Barrington-Leigh, C. P., Harris, A., & Huang, H. (2009). International evidence on the social context of well-being (No. w14720). National Bureau of Economic Research.Google Scholar
- 30.Joshanloo, M. (2018). Investigating the relationships between subjective well-being and psychological well-being over two decades. Emotion.Google Scholar
- 31.Joshanloo, M. (2017). Structural and discriminant validity of the tripartite model of mental well-being: Differential relationships with the big five traits. Journal of Mental Health.Google Scholar
- 32.Joshanloo, M., & Niknam, S. (2017). The tripartite model of mental well-being in Iran: Factorial and discriminant validity. Current Psychology.Google Scholar
- 34.Kansky, J., & Diener, E. (2017). Benefits of well-being: Health, social relationships, work, and resilience. Journal of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing, 1, 129–169.Google Scholar
- 43.Little, T. D. (2013). Longitudinal structural equation modeling. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- 47.McMahon, D. M. (2006). Happiness: A history. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press.Google Scholar
- 54.Putman, R. D. (2001). Social capital: measurement and consequences. In J. F. Helliwell (Ed.), The contribution of human and social capital to sustained economic growth and well-being (pp. 117–135). Ottawa: Human Resources Development Canada.Google Scholar
- 57.Ryff, C. D., et al. (2016). National survey of midlife development in the United States (MIDUS 3), 2013–2014. ICPSR36346-v4. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor]. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR36346.v4.
- 58.Selig, J., & Little, T. (2012).. Autoregressive and cross-lagged panel analysis for longitudinal data. In B. Laursen, T. D. Little & N. A. Card (Eds.), Handbook of developmental research methods (pp. 265–278). New York, NY: Guilford.Google Scholar