Rebound or Resignation: Developing a Predictive Model of Return to Subjective Wellbeing Set-Point

Abstract

Though subjective wellbeing (SWB) is generally stable and consistent over time, it can fall below its set-point in response to adverse life events. However, deviations from set-point levels are usually only temporary, as homeostatic processes operate to return SWB to its normal state. Given that income and close interpersonal relationships have been proposed as powerful external resources that are coincident with higher SWB, access to these resources may be an important predictor of whether or not a person is likely to recover their SWB following a departure from their set-point. Under the guiding framework of SWB Homeostasis Theory, this study considers whether access to a higher income and a committed partner can predict whether people who score lower than normal for SWB at baseline will return to normal set-point levels of SWB (rebound) or remain below the normal range (resigned) at follow-up. Participants were 733 people (53.3 % female) from the Australian Unity Longitudinal Wellbeing Study who ranged in age from 20 to 92 years (M = 59.65 years; SD = 13.15). Logistic regression analyses revealed that participants’ demographic characteristics were poor predictors of whether they rebounded or resigned. Consistent with homeostasis theory, the extent of departure from the proposed normal SWB set-point at baseline was significantly associated with rebound or resignation at time 2. These findings have implications for the way that SWB measures can be used in professional practice to identify people who are particularly vulnerable to depression and to guide the provision of appropriate and effective therapeutic interventions.

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Correspondence to Melissa K. Weinberg.

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Weinberg, M.K., Heath, N. & Tomyn, A.J. Rebound or Resignation: Developing a Predictive Model of Return to Subjective Wellbeing Set-Point. J Happiness Stud 17, 1565–1575 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-015-9659-z

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Keywords

  • Subjective wellbeing
  • Happiness
  • Depression
  • Homeostasis
  • Set-point