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A Demonstration of Set-Points for Subjective Wellbeing

Abstract

This paper presents evidence for the existence of ‘set-points’ for subjective wellbeing. Our results derive from a 10-year longitudinal study in which subjective wellbeing has been measured using a single question of general life satisfaction. The process of data analysis is driven by logic based on the theory of subjective wellbeing homeostasis. This analysis involves the iterative elimination of raw data, from 7,356 individual respondents, based on confidence limits. All results are projected onto a 0–100 point scale. We demonstrate evidence for the existence of set-points lying between 71 and 90 points, with an average set-point-range of 18–20 points for each person. The implications and limitations of these findings are discussed.

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Acknowledgements

The research reported on in this paper has been supported, in part, by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant (#DP1095497) and 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 view reported in this paper, however, are those of the authors and should not be attributed to FaHCSIA or the Melbourne Institute. We thank Ann-Marie James for her assistance in the preparation of this manuscript. We also thank Robert Connor and Linda Hartley-Clark for their suggestions regarding the text.

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Correspondence to Robert A. Cummins.

Appendix

Appendix

See Tables 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8.

Table 3 Beginning and ending status of iteration 2
Table 4 Beginning and ending status of iteration 3
Table 5 Beginning and ending status of iteration 4
Table 6 Beginning and ending status of iteration 5
Table 7 Beginning and ending status of iteration 6
Table 8 Summary of score distribution changes between categories through the five iterations

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Cummins, R.A., Li, N., Wooden, M. et al. A Demonstration of Set-Points for Subjective Wellbeing. J Happiness Stud 15, 183–206 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-013-9444-9

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Keywords

  • Subjective wellbeing
  • Homeostasis
  • Set-points
  • Genetic