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

Abstract

Purpose

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.

Methods

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.

Results

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.

Conclusion

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.

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Correspondence to Mohsen Joshanloo.

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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 http://midus.wisc.edu/index.php.

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Informed consent has been obtained from all participants included in the study. For more information, see http://midus.wisc.edu/index.php.

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Joshanloo, M., Sirgy, M.J. & Park, J. Directionality of the relationship between social well-being and subjective well-being: evidence from a 20-year longitudinal study. Qual Life Res 27, 2137–2145 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11136-018-1865-9

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Keywords

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