Social Indicators Research

, Volume 81, Issue 1, pp 1–33 | Cite as

Investigating the Intra-Individual Variability and Trajectories of Subjective Well-being

  • Anne M. GadermannEmail author
  • Bruno D. Zumbo


The present study explored the short-term temporal characteristics of subjective well-being (SWB) and its potential correlates. Specifically, we examined the intra-individual variability and the trajectories of SWB and its components life satisfaction, positive, and negative affect. Over a two-week period, 27 participants (78% university students, 85% females, mean age of 29 years) provided SWB data every other day. Before and after this period, participants completed several questionnaires assessing personality and environmental variables, as well as several open-ended questions. The results provide evidence that participants experienced a significant amount of intra-individual variability in their SWB and its components. Furthermore, inter-individual differences in the intra-individual variability were related to several of the personality and environmental variables, as well as to participant’s age. Results of multiple regression analyses indicated that deliberation (one facet of the Big Five dimension conscientiousness), social support, and age accounted for 58% of the total variance of intra-individual variability in SWB. In contrast, the slopes of the individual trajectories of SWB were on average statistically non-significantly different from zero. These results emphasize that information is gained by looking at both the patterns and the intra-individual variability over time: The individual trajectories of the participants on average appeared to be stable, but intra-individual variability of SWB was meaningfully related to several of the variables.


Life Satisfaction Negative Mood Positive Mood Median Absolute Deviation Individual Trajectory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Blumenthal J.A., Burg M.M., Barefoot J., Williams R.B., Haney T. and Zimet G. (1987). Social support, type A behaviour, and coronary artery disease. Psychosomatic Medicine 49: 331–340 Google Scholar
  2. Bostic T.J. and Ptacek J.T. (2001). Personality factors and the short-term variability in subjective well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies 2: 355–373 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Carrig M.M., Wirth R.J. and Curran P.J. (2004). A SAS macro for estimating and visualizing individual growth curves. Structural Equation Modeling 11: 132–149 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cassidy T. (2000). Stress, healthiness and health behaviours: An exploration of the role of life events, daily hassles, cognitive appraisal and the coping process. Counselling Psychology Quarterly 13: 293–311 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cohen J. (1992). A power primer. Psychological Bulletin 112: 155–159 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Costa P.T. and McCrae R.R. (1992). Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) and NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) professional manual. Psychological Assessment Resources, Odessa, FL Google Scholar
  7. Diener E. (1984). Subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin 95: 542–575 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Diener E. (1996). Traits can be powerful, but are not enough: Lessons from subjective well-being. Journal of Research in Personality 30: 389–399 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Diener, E. (2005). Diener’s Daily Mood Scale. Retrieved April 4:2005, from R. Veenhoven, World Database of Happiness, Catalog of Happiness Queries, Scholar
  10. Diener E. and Emmons R.A. (1985). The independence of positive and negative affect. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 47: 1105–1117 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Diener E. and Larsen R.J. (1984). Temporal stability and cross-situational consistency of affective, behavioral and cognitive responses. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 47: 871–883 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Diener E. and Lucas R.E. (1999). Personality and subjective well-being. In: Kahneman, D., Diener, E. and Schwarz, N. (eds) Well-being: The Foundations of Hedonic Psychology, pp 213–229. Russell Sage Foundation, New York Google Scholar
  13. Diener E., Sandvik E. and Pavot W. (1991). Happiness is the frequency, not the intensity, of positive versus negative affect. In: Strack, F. and Argyle, M. (eds) Subjective Well-being: An Interdisciplinary Perspective, pp 119–139. Pergamon Press, New York Google Scholar
  14. Diener E., Sapyta J.J. and Suh E. (1998). Subjective well-being is essential to well-being. Psychological Inquiry 9: 33–37 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Diener E. and Suh E. (2000). Measuring subjective well-being to compare the quality of life of cultures. In: Diener, E. and Suh, E. (eds) Culture and Subjective Well-being, pp 13–36. The MIT Press, Cambridge, US Google Scholar
  16. Diener E., Suh E., Lucas R.E. and Smith H.L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin 125: 276–302 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Eid M. and Diener E. (1999). Intraindividual variability in affect: Reliability, validity and personality correlates. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 76: 662–676 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Feist G.J., Bodner T.E., Jacobs J.F., Miles M. and Tan V. (1995). Integrating top-down and bottom-up structural models of subjective well-being: A longitudinal investigation. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 68: 138–150 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Feldman Barrett L. and Russell J.A. (1998). Independence and bipolarity in the structure of current affect. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 74: 967–984 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hall D.P., Sing H.C. and Romanoski A.J. (1991). Identification and characterization of greater mood variance in depression. American Journal of Psychiatry 148: 1341–1345 Google Scholar
  21. Headey B. and Wearing A. (1989). Personality, life events and subjective well-being: toward a dynamic equilibrium model. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 57: 731–739 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Huber P.J. (1981). Robust Statistics. Wiley, New York CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kohn P.M. and Macdonald J.E. (1992). The survey of recent life experiences: A decontaminated hassles scale for adults. Journal of Behavioral Medicine 15: 221–236 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Larson R.W., Raffaelli M., Richards M.H., Ham M. and Jewell L. (1990). Ecology of depression in late childhood and early adolescence: A profile of daily states and activities. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 99: 92–102 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lucas R.E., Clark A.E., Georgellis Y. and Diener E. (2003). Reexamining adaptation and the set point model of happiness: reactions to changes in marital status. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 84: 527–539 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lucas R.E., Diener E. and Suh E. (1996). Discriminant validity of well-being measures. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 71: 616–628 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. McIntosh C.N. (2001). Report on the construct validity of the temporal satisfaction with life scale. Social Indicators Research 54: 37–56 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mischel W. and Shoda Y. (1995). A cognitive-affective system theory of personality: Reconceptualizing situations, dispositions, dynamics and invariance in personality structure. Psychological Review 102: 246–268 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Oishi S., Diener E., Suh E. and Lucas R.E. (1999). Value as a moderator in subjective well-being. Journal of Personality 67: 157–184 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Paulhus D.L. (1983). Sphere-specific measures of perceived control. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 44: 1253–1265 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Paulhus D.L. and Christie R. (1981). Spheres of control: An interactionist approach to assessment of perceived control. In: Lefcourt, H. (eds) Research with the Locus of Control Construct, pp 161–188. Academic Press, New York Google Scholar
  32. Paulhus D.L. (1990). The spheres of control scale: 10 yrs of research. Personality & Individual Differences 11: 1029–1036 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pavot W., Diener E. and Suh E. (1998). The temporal satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment 70: 340–354 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pedhazur E.J. (1997). Multiple Regression in Behavioral Research. Harcourt Brace College Publishers, New York Google Scholar
  35. Reis H.T., Sheldon K.M., Gable S.L., Roscoe J. and Ryan R.M. (2000). Daily well-being: The role of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin 26: 419–435 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Robins R.W., Hendin H.M. and Trzesniewski K.H. (2001). Measuring global self-esteem: Construct validation of a single-item measure and the Rosenberg self-esteem scale. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin 27: 151–161 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Rosenberg M. (1989). Society and the Adolescent Self-image. Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, CT Google Scholar
  38. Ryan R.M. and Deci E.L. (2001). On happiness and human potentials: A review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Annual Review of Psychology 52: 141–166 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Schimmack U., Böckenholt U. and Reisenzein R. (2002). Response styles in affect ratings: Making a mountain out of a molehill. Journal of Personality Assessment 78: 461–483 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Shek D. T. L., Tang V. M. Y. and Han X.Y. (2005). Evaluation of evaluation studies using qualitative research methods in the social work literature (1990–2003): Evidence that constitutes a wake-up call. Research on Social Work Practice 15: 180–194 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Singer J.D. and Willett J.B. (2003). Applied Longitudinal Data Analysis. Modeling Change and Event Occurrence. Oxford University Press, New York Google Scholar
  42. Steger M. F., P. Frazier, S. Oishi and M. Kaler: 2004, The meaning in life questionnaire: Evidence of reliability and validity. Unpublished manuscriptGoogle Scholar
  43. Stones M.J., Hadjistavropoulos T., Tuuko H. and Kozma A. (1995). Happiness has traitlike and statelike properties: A reply to Veenhoven. Social Indicators Research 36: 129–144 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Tatsuoka M. (1993). Effect size. In: Keren, G. and Lewis, C. (eds) A Handbook for Data Analysis in the Behavioral Sciences, pp 461–480. Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ Google Scholar
  45. Thomas D.R., Hughes E. and Zumbo B.D. (1998). On variable importance in linear regression. Social Indicators Research 45: 253–275 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Veenhoven R. (1994). Is happiness a trait? Tests of the theory that a better society does not make people any happier?. Social Indicators Research 32: 101–160 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Veenhoven R. (1998). Two state-trait discussions on happiness. A reply to Stones et al. Social Indicators Research 43: 211–225 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Virtanen P. and Koivisto A. (2001). Wellbeing of professionals at entry into the labour market: A follow up survey of medicine and architecture students. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health 55: 831–835 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Wessman A.E. and Ricks D.F. (1966). Mood and Personality. Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, Oxford, England Google Scholar
  50. Zumbo B.D. (1994). The lurking assumptions in using generalizability theory to monitor an individual’s progress. In: Laveault, D., Zumbo, B.D., Gessaroli, M.E. and Boss, M. (eds) Modern Theories of Measurement: Problems & Issues, pp 261–278. University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON Google Scholar
  51. Zumbo B.D. and Hubley A.M. (1998). A note on misconceptions concerning prospective and retrospective power. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series D 47: 385–388 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Zumbo B.D. and Jennings M.J. (2002). The robustness of validity and efficiency of the related samples t-test in the presence of outliers. Psicologica 23: 415–450Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ECPSUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

Personalised recommendations