Quality of Life Research

, Volume 27, Issue 8, pp 2137–2145 | Cite as

Directionality of the relationship between social well-being and subjective well-being: evidence from a 20-year longitudinal study

  • Mohsen JoshanlooEmail author
  • M. Joseph Sirgy
  • Joonha Park



Self-determination theory suggests that psycho-social well-being prospectively predicts subjective well-being. In contrast, the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions suggests that subjective well-being has a positive impact on subsequent levels of psycho-social well-being. The present study sought to empirically disentangle the directionality of the relationship between subjective well-being and social well-being over time.


The study used three waves of survey data, with intervals of 10 years, from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) project, a representative longitudinal panel study of American adults (N = 2732). Cross-lagged panel modeling was used for data analysis.


The results revealed that social well-being predicted increases in subsequent subjective well-being, whereas subjective well-being did not prospectively predict social well-being. Social well-being also demonstrated more stability over time than did subjective well-being.


These findings suggest that optimal social functioning is more likely to be an antecedent to subjective well-being, not the other way around. The results are consistent with predictions guided by self-determination theory.


Subjective well-being Social well-being Longitudinal Hedonic well-being Eudaimonic well-being 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in this study are in accordance with the conventional ethical standards. We used the data from the national survey of midlife development in the United States. For more information about the data collection procedures, see

Informed consent

Informed consent has been obtained from all participants included in the study. For more information, see

Supplementary material

11136_2018_1865_MOESM1_ESM.docx (14 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 13 KB)


  1. 1.
    Baltes, P. B., & Nesselroade, J. R. (1972). Cultural change and adolescent personality development: An application of longitudinal sequences. Developmental Psychology, 7, 244–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bastian, B., Jetten, J., & Ferris, L. J. (2014). Pain as social glue: Shared pain increases cooperation. Psychological Science, 25, 2079–2085.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497–529.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ben-Zur, H. (2003). Happy adolescents: The link between subjective well-being, internal resources, and parental factors. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 32, 67–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bjornskov, C. (2008). Social capital and happiness in the United States. Applied Research in Quality of Life, 3, 43–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Brown, T. A. (2015). Confirmatory factor analysis for applied research. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Cheung, G. W., & Rensvold, R. B. (2002). Evaluating goodness-of-fit indexes for testing measurement invariance. Structural Equation Modeling, 9, 233–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Chopik, W. J. (2017). Associations among relational values, support, health, and well-being across the adult lifespan. Personal relationships, 24(2), 408–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Cicognani, E., Prini, C., Keyes, C. L. M., Joshanloo, M., Rostami, R., & Nosratabadi, M. (2008). Social participation, sense of community and social well-being: A study on American, Italian and Iranian University students. Social Indicators Research, 89, 97–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Coleman, J. S. (1988). Social capital in the creation of human capital. The American Journal of Sociology, 94, S95-S120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Cyders, M. A., & Smith, G. T. (2008). Emotion-based dispositions to rash action: Positive and negative urgency. Psychological Bulletin, 134, 807–828.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Davies, W. (2015). The happiness industry: How the government and big business sold us well-being. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Davis, M. A. (2008). Understanding the relationship between mood and creativity: A meta-analysis. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 108, 25–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2010). Self-determination. New York: John Wiley & Sons.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    DeHaan, C., & Ryan, R. M. (2014). Symptoms of wellness: Happiness and eudaimonia from a self-determination perspective. In K. M. Sheldon & R. E. Lucas (Eds.), Stability of happiness: Theories and evidence on whether happiness can change (pp. 37–55). Amsterdam: Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Diener, E. (1984). Subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 95, 542–575.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 276–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Durlak, J. A., & Wells, A. M. (1997). Primary prevention programs for children and adolescents: A meta-analytic review. American Journal of Community Psychology, 25, 115–152.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Elder, G. H. Jr. (1979). Historical change in life patterns and personality. In P. B. Baltes & O. G. Brim, Jr. (Eds.), Life-span development and behavior (Vol. 2, pp. 117–159). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Fowles, D. C. (1980). The three arousal model: Implications of Gray’s two-factor learning theory for heart rate, electrodermal activity, and psychopathy. Psychophysiology, 17, 87–104.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 359(1449), 1367–1377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Gable, P. A., & Harmon-Jones, E. (2008). Approach-motivated positive affect reduces breadth of attention. Psychological Science, 19, 476–482.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Graham, J. W., & Coffman, D. L. (2012). Structural equation modeling with missing data. In R. Hoyle (Ed.), Handbook of structural equation modeling. New York, NY: Guilford.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Grant, A. M., & Schwartz, B. (2011). Too much of a good thing: The challenge and opportunity of the inverted-U. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6, 61–76.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Gruber, J., Mauss, I. B., & Tamir, M. (2011). A dark side of happiness? How, when, and why happiness is not always good. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6(3), 222–233.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Harmon-Jones, E., Gable, P. A., & Price, T. F. (2013). Does negative affect always narrow and positive affect always broaden the mind? Considering the influence of motivational intensity on cognitive scope. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22, 301–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Helliwell, J. F., Barrington-Leigh, C. P., Harris, A., & Huang, H. (2009). International evidence on the social context of well-being (No. w14720). National Bureau of Economic Research.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Joshanloo, M. (2016). Revisiting the empirical distinction between hedonic and eudaimonic aspects of well-being using exploratory structural equation modeling. Journal of Happiness Studies, 17, 2023–2036.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Joshanloo, M. (2017). Factor structure and criterion validity of original and short versions of the Negative and Positive Affect Scale (NAPAS). Personality and Individual Differences, 105, 233–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Joshanloo, M. (2018). Investigating the relationships between subjective well-being and psychological well-being over two decades. Emotion.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Joshanloo, M. (2017). Structural and discriminant validity of the tripartite model of mental well-being: Differential relationships with the big five traits. Journal of Mental Health.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Joshanloo, M., & Niknam, S. (2017). The tripartite model of mental well-being in Iran: Factorial and discriminant validity. Current Psychology.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Joshanloo, M., Bobowick, M., & Basabe, N. (2016). Factor structure of mental well-being: Contributions of exploratory structural equation modeling. Personality and Individual Differences, 102, 107–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Kansky, J., & Diener, E. (2017). Benefits of well-being: Health, social relationships, work, and resilience. Journal of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing, 1, 129–169.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Kashdan, T. B., Morina, N., & Priebe, S. (2009). Post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, and depression in survivors of the Kosovo War: Experiential avoidance as a contributor to distress and quality of life. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 23, 185–196.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Keyes, C. L. M. (1998). Social well-being. Social Psychology Quarterly, 61, 121–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Keyes, C. L., Shmotkin, D., & Ryff, C. D. (2002). Optimizing well-being: The empirical encounter of two traditions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 1007–1022.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Keyes, C. L. M., & Simoes, E. J. (2012). To flourish or not: Positive mental health and all-cause mortality. American Journal of Public Health, 102(11), 2164–2172.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Keyes, C. L. M. (2013). Promoting and protecting positive mental health: Early and often throughout the lifespan. In C.L.M. Keys (Ed.), Mental well-being: International contributions to the study of positive mental health (pp. 3–28). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Keyes, C. L. M. (2002). The mental health continuum: From languishing to flourishing in life. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 43, 207–222.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Laursen, B., & Bukowski, W. M. (1997). A developmental guide to the organisation of close relationships. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 21(4), 747–770.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Leung, J. P., & Leung, K. (1992). Life satisfaction, self-concept, and relationship with parents in adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 21, 653–665.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Little, T. D. (2013). Longitudinal structural equation modeling. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131, 803–855.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Martin, L. L., Ward, D. W., Achee, J. W., & Wyer, R. S. (1993). Mood as input: People have to interpret the motivational implications of their moods. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 317–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Martin, L. R., Friedman, H. S., Tucker, J. S., Tomlinson-Keasey, C., Criqui, M. H., & Schwartz, J. E. (2002). A life course perspective on childhood cheerfulness and its relation to mortality risk. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 1155–1165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    McMahon, D. M. (2006). Happiness: A history. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Mroczek, D. K., & Kolarz, C. M. (1998). The effect of age on positive and negative affect: A developmental perspective on happiness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 1333–1349.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Mulgan, T. (2014). Understanding utilitarianism. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Newsom, J. T. (2015). Longitudinal structural equation modeling: A comprehensive introduction. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Oishi, S., Diener, E., & Lucas, R. E. (2006). The optimum level of well-being: Can people be too happy? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2, 346–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Orcutt, H., Pickett, S., & Pope, B. (2005). Experiential avoidance and forgiveness as mediators in the relation between traumatic interpersonal events and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 24, 1003–1029.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Park, N. (2004). The role of subjective well-being in positive youth development. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 591, 25–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Putman, R. D. (2001). Social capital: measurement and consequences. In J. F. Helliwell (Ed.), The contribution of human and social capital to sustained economic growth and well-being (pp. 117–135). Ottawa: Human Resources Development Canada.Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Robitschek, C., & Keyes, C. L. M. (2009). Keyes’s model of mental health with personal growth initiative as a parsimonious predictor. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 56, 321–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. 56.
    Ryff, C. D. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 1069–1081.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. 57.
    Ryff, C. D., et al. (2016). National survey of midlife development in the United States (MIDUS 3), 2013–2014. ICPSR36346-v4. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor].
  58. 58.
    Selig, J., & Little, T. (2012).. Autoregressive and cross-lagged panel analysis for longitudinal data. In B. Laursen, T. D. Little & N. A. Card (Eds.), Handbook of developmental research methods (pp. 265–278). New York, NY: Guilford.Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    Shapiro, A., & Keyes, C. L. M. (2008). Marital status and social well-being: Are the married always better off? Social Indicators Research, 88, 329–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. 60.
    Tenney, E. R., Poole, J. M., & Diener, E. (2016). Does positivity enhance work performance? Why, when, and what we don’t know. Research in Organizational Behavior, 36, 27–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyKeimyung UniversityDaeguSouth Korea
  2. 2.Department of MarketingVirginia Polytechnic Institute & State UniversityBlacksburgUSA
  3. 3.Department of ManagementNagoya University of Commerce and BusinessNisshinJapan

Personalised recommendations