Skip to main content

Simply Satisfied: The Role of Psychological Need Satisfaction in the Life Satisfaction of Voluntary Simplifiers

Abstract

Low consumption lifestyles have the potential to impact positively on the environment and mental health. Past research indicates that individuals who engage in a low consumption lifestyle known as voluntary simplicity have higher levels of life satisfaction. This investigation aimed to test the role of psychological needs as proposed by Ryan and Deci’s (Am Psychol 55(1):68–78, 2000. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.68) self-determination theory, in the relationship between voluntary simplicity and life satisfaction in a sample of 571 adults who may or may not identify as voluntary simplifiers. Self-report data was analysed using structural equation modeling to test a hypothesised path from simplifying behaviours to life satisfaction via gratification of the three proposed psychological needs. Consistent with previous research, simplifying behaviours were associated with increased life satisfaction. The proposed pathway: simplicity—psychological need gratification—life satisfaction was supported in the empirical test of the structural equation model suggesting psychological need satisfaction plays a mediating role in the increased life satisfaction of voluntary simplifiers.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

References

  • Ajzen, I., & Fishbein, M. (1977). Attitude-behavior relations: A theoretical analysis and review of empirical research. Psychological Bulletin, 84(5), 888–918. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.84.5.888.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Alexander, S., & Ussher, S. (2012). The voluntary simplicity movement: A multi-national survey analysis in theoretical context. Journal of Consumer Culture, 12(1), 66–86. doi:10.1177/1469540512444019.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics (2008). National survey of mental health and well-being: Summary of results, 2007. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/4326.0MainFeatures32007?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=4326.0&issue=2007&num=&view=

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics (2011). Household expenditure survey, Australia: Summary of results, 20092010. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/6530.0MediaRelease12009-10?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=6530.0&issue=2009-10&num=&view=

  • Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  • Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator-mediator varibale distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 1173–1182.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497–529. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.117.3.497.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Boujbel, L., & d’Astous, A. (2012). Voluntary simplicity and life satisfaction: Exploring the mediating role of consumption desires. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 11(6), 487–494. doi:10.1002/cb.1399.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Breen Pierce, L. (2000). Choosing simplicity: Real people finding peace and fulfillment in a complex world. Seattle: Gallagher Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brown, K. W., & Kasser, T. (2005). Are psychological and ecological well-being compatible? The role of values, mindfulness, and lifestyle. Social Indicators Research, 74(2), 349–368. doi:10.1007/s11205-004-8207-8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cowles, D., & Crosby, L. A. (1986). Measure validation in consumer research: A confirmatory factor analysis of the Voluntary Simplicity Lifestyle Scale. Advances in Consumer Research, 13(1), 392–397.

    Google Scholar 

  • Craig-Lees, M., & Hill, C. (2002). Understanding voluntary simplifiers. Psychology and Marketing, 19(2), 187–210. doi:10.1002/mar.10009.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cruz, I., Stahel, A., & Max-Neef, M. (2009). Towards a systemic development approach: Building on the human-scale development paradigm. Ecological Economics, 68(7), 2021–2030. doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2009.02.004.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Deaton, A. (2008). Income, health, and well-being around the world: Evidence from the gallup world poll (report). Journal of Economic Perspectives, 22(2), 53.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behaviour. New York: Plenum Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), 227–268. doi:10.1207/S15327965PLI1104_01.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2008). Facilitating optimal motivation and psychological well-being across life’s domains. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne, 49(1), 14–23. doi:10.1037/0708-5591.49.1.14.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Diener, E. (1984). Subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 95, 542–575.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49(1), 71–75. doi:10.1207/s15327752jpa4901_13.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Diener, E., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Very happy people. Psychological Science, 13(1), 81–84. doi:10.1111/1467-9280.00415.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125(2), 276–302. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.125.2.276.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Easterlin, R. A. (2013). Happiness and economic growth: The evidence. IZA Discussion Paper No. 7187. http://econpapers.repec.org/RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7187

  • Elgin, D. (2010). Voluntary simplicity (2nd ed.). New York: Harper Collins.

    Google Scholar 

  • Elgin, D., & Mitchell, A. (1977). Voluntary simplicity. Strategy & Leadership, 5(6), 13–15. doi:10.1108/eb053820.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fujita, F., & Diener, E. (2005). Life satisfaction set point: Stability and change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88(1), 158–164. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.88.1.158.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gregg, R. (1936). The value of voluntary simplicity. Pendle Hill: Pamphlet.

    Google Scholar 

  • Guillen-Royo, M. (2007). Well-being and consumption: Towards a theoretical approach based on human need satisfaction. In L. Bruni (Ed.), Handbook on the economics of happiness (pp. 151–169). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

    Google Scholar 

  • Guillen-Royo, M., & Wilhite, H. L. (2015). Wellbeing and sustainable consumption. In W. Glatzer, L. Camfield, V. Møller, & M. Rojas (Eds.), Global handbook of quality of life (pp. 301–315). Netherlands: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-94-017-9178-6.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Hair, J. F., Black, W. C., Babin, B. J., & Anderson, R. E. (2010). Multivariate data analysis. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hansen, K. (2015). Exploring compatibility between “subjective well-being” and “sustainable living” in Scandinavia. Social Indicators Research, 122(1), 175–187. doi:10.1007/s11205-014-0684-9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hopkins, R. (2013). The power of just doing stuff. Cambridge: UIT Cambridge Ltd.

    Google Scholar 

  • Huneke, M. E. (2005). The face of the un-consumer: An empirical examination of the practice of voluntary simplicity in the United States. Psychology & Marketing, 22(7), 527–550. doi:10.1002/mar.20072.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Iwata, O. (2001). Attitudinal determinants of environmentally responsible behavior. Social Behavior and Personality: An international Journal, 29(2), 183. doi:10.2224/sbp.2001.29.2.183.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jackson, T. (2005). Live better by consuming less?: Is there a “double dividend”in sustainable consumption? Journal of Industrial Ecology, 9(1–2), 19–36. doi:10.1162/1088198054084734.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kasser, T. (2009). Psychological need satisfaction, personal well-being, and ecological sustainability. Ecopsychology, 1(4), 175–180. doi:10.1089/eco.2009.0025.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kasser, T. (2011). Can thrift bring well-being? A review of the research and a tentative theory. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 5(11), 865–877. doi:10.1111/j.1751-9004.2011.00396.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kasser, T., Rosenblum, K., Sameroff, L., Deci, A., Niemiec, J., Ryan, E., & Hawks, O. (2014). Changes in materialism, changes in psychological well-being: Evidence from three longitudinal studies and an intervention experiment. Motivation and Emotion, 38(1), 1–22. doi:10.1007/s11031-013-9371-4.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M. (1993). A dark side of the American dream: Correlates of financial success as a central life aspiration. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65(2), 410–422.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M. (1996). Further examining the American dream: Differential correlates of intrinsic and extrinsic goals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22(3), 280.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kasser, V. G., & Ryan, R. M. (1999). The relation of psychological needs for autonomy and relatedness to vitality, well-being, and mortality in a nursing home. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 29(5), 935–954. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.1999.tb00133.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Keyes, C. L. M. (2012). Mental well-being: International contributions to the study of positive mental health. Dordrecht: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Koivumaa-Honkanen, H., Honkanen, R., Viinamäki, H., Heikkilä, K., Kaprio, J., & Koskenvuo, M. (2001). Life satisfaction and suicide: A 20-year follow-up study. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 158(3), 433–439. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.158.3.433.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Leonard-Barton, D. (1981). Voluntary simplicity lifestyles and energy conservation. The Journal of Consumer Research, 8(3), 243–252. doi:10.1086/208861.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131(6), 803–855. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.131.6.803.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Markowitz, E. M., & Bowerman, T. (2011). How much is enough? Examining the public’s beliefs about consumption. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 12(167), 189. doi:10.1111/j.1530-2415.2011.01230.x.

    Google Scholar 

  • McDonald, S., Oates, C. J., Young, C. W., & Hwang, K. (2006). Toward sustainable consumption: Researching voluntary simplifiers. Psychology and Marketing, 23(6), 515–534. doi:10.1002/mar.20132.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Munksgaard, J., Pedersen, K. A., & Wien, M. (2000). Impact of household consumption on CO2 emissions. Energy Economics, 22, 423–440.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (1993). Review of the satisfaction with life scale. Psychological Assessment, 5(2), 164–172. doi:10.1037/1040-3590.5.2.164.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (2008). The satisfaction with life scale and the emerging construct of life satisfaction. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 3(2), 137–152. doi:10.1080/17439760701156946.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pavot, W., Diener, E., Colvin, C. R., & Sandvik, E. (1991). Further validation of the satisfaction with life scale: Evidence for the cross-method convergence of well-being measures. Journal of Personality Assessment, 57(1), 149–161. doi:10.1207/s15327752jpa5701_17.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Periera, M. C., & Coelho, F. (2013). Work hours and well being: An investigation of moderator effects. Social Indictors Research, 111, 235–253. doi:10.1007/s11205-012-0002-3.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Phillips, R., Seifer, B., & Antczak, E. (2013). Sustainable communities: Creating a durable local economy. Taylor and Francis,. doi:10.4324/9780203381212.

    Google Scholar 

  • Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2004). SPSS and SAS procedures for estimating indirect effects in simple mediation models. Behaviour Research Methods, Instruments & Computers, 36(4), 713–717.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Robak, R. W., & Nagda, P. R. (2011). Psychological needs: A study of what makes life satisfying. North American Journal of Psychology, 13(1), 75.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rotter, J. B. (1966). Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs, 80(1), 1–28.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. The American Psychologist, 55(1), 68–78. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.68.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ryan, R. M., & 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ryan, R. M., Deci, E. L., & Grolnick, W. S. (1995). Autonomy, relatedness, and the self: Their relation to development and psychopathology. In D. Cicchetti & D. J. Cohen (Eds.), Developmental psychopathology: Theory and methods. New York: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Segal, J. (1999). Graceful simplicity: Toward a philosophy and politics of the alternative american dream. New York: H. Holt.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shama, A. (1988). The voluntary simplicity consumer: A comparative study. Psychological Reports, 63(3), 859–869. doi:10.2466/pr0.1988.63.3.859.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sheldon, K. M., Elliot, A. J., Kim, Y., & Kasser, T. (2001). What is satisfying about satisfying events? Testing 10 candidate psychological needs. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80(2), 325–339. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.80.2.325.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shi, D. E. (1986). In search of the simple life. Salt Lake City, UT: Peregrine Smith Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Slemp, G. R., & Vella-Brodrick, D. A. (2013). Optimising employee mental health: The relationship between intrinsic need satisfaction, job crafting, and employee well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15(4), 957–977. doi:10.1007/s10902-013-9458-3.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Steger, M. F., Frazier, P., Oishi, S., & Kaler, M. (2006). The meaning in life questionnaire: Assessing the presence of and search for meaning in life. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53(1), 80–93. doi:10.1037/0022-0167.53.1.80.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Stacey A. Rich.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Rich, S.A., Hanna, S. & Wright, B. Simply Satisfied: The Role of Psychological Need Satisfaction in the Life Satisfaction of Voluntary Simplifiers. J Happiness Stud 18, 89–105 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-016-9718-0

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-016-9718-0

Keywords

  • Low consumption lifestyle
  • Voluntary simplicity
  • Self-determination theory
  • Life satisfaction