Social Indicators Research

, Volume 111, Issue 1, pp 287–305 | Cite as

Is Personality Fixed? Personality Changes as Much as “Variable” Economic Factors and More Strongly Predicts Changes to Life Satisfaction

  • Christopher J. BoyceEmail author
  • Alex M. Wood
  • Nattavudh Powdthavee


Personality is the strongest and most consistent cross-sectional predictor of high subjective well-being. Less predictive economic factors, such as higher income or improved job status, are often the focus of applied subjective well-being research due to a perception that they can change whereas personality cannot. As such there has been limited investigation into personality change and how such changes might bring about higher well-being. In a longitudinal analysis of 8625 individuals we examine Big Five personality measures at two time points to determine whether an individual’s personality changes and also the extent to which such changes in personality can predict changes in life satisfaction. We find that personality changes at least as much as economic factors and relates much more strongly to changes in life satisfaction. Our results therefore suggest that personality can change and that such change is important and meaningful. Our findings may help inform policy debate over how best to help individuals and nations improve their well-being.


Personality change Big Five Subjective well-being Life satisfaction Fixed effects Income 



The Economic and Social Research Council (PTA-026-27-2665) provided research support. This paper uses unit record data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey. The HILDA Project was initiated and is funded by the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) and is managed by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research (Melbourne Institute). The findings and views reported in this paper, however, are those of the author and should not be attributed to either FaHCSIA or the Melbourne Institute.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher J. Boyce
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alex M. Wood
    • 1
  • Nattavudh Powdthavee
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Psychological SciencesUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK
  2. 2.London School of EconomicsLondonUK
  3. 3.The University of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

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