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Confirmation of Subjective Wellbeing Set-Points: Foundational for Subjective Social Indicators

Abstract

The usefulness of subjective wellbeing (SWB) as a social indicator rests on understanding what controls its level when measured through self-report data. While the theory of SWB homeostasis provides a cogent explanatory framework for the control processes, this theory relies on set-points, and direct evidence for their existence rests on a single study. Cummins et al. (J Happiness Stud 15:183–206, 2014. doi:10.1007/s10902-013-9444-9) demonstrated a normal range of set-points between 71 and 90 points on a 0–100 scale, using data on global life satisfaction (GLS). These findings are consistent with homeostasis theory, which proposes that set-points account for the normal positivity of SWB while its stability is accounted for by homeostatic processes. The current paper extends the first report in two ways. First, by replicating the range of set-points using a different data set. Second, by extending the findings to homeostatically protected mood (HPMood), which is proposed to be the basic psychological molecule that homeostasis seeks to protect. Participants completed between 5 and 10 surveys. Data preparation involved the iterative elimination of scores based on significant deviation from their over-time mean score. It is confirmed that GLS and HPMood set-points are both normally distributed between 75 and 90 points. These results offer further support for the usefulness of SWB as a social indicator.

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Acknowledgements

We are deeply grateful for the selfless and collegial assistance provided to us by the anonymous reviewers. The final product is a tribute to their true academic spirit and shared intellect. We also gratefully acknowledge our industry partner, Australian Unity, whose staunch support over many years of data collection made this demonstration of set-points possible.

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Correspondence to Tanja Capic.

Appendix

Appendix

See Tables 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12.

Table 7 Number and proportion of people in each GLS2 and HPMood category before and after data-stripping
Table 8 GLS2 scores excluded over 5 iterations
Table 9 HPMood scores excluded over 6 iterations
Table 10 Changes in GLS2 categories before and after each iteration
Table 11 Changes in HPMood categories before and after each iteration
Table 12 Number and proportion of people in compressed GLS2 and HPMood categories before and after data-stripping

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Capic, T., Li, N. & Cummins, R.A. Confirmation of Subjective Wellbeing Set-Points: Foundational for Subjective Social Indicators. Soc Indic Res 137, 1–28 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-017-1585-5

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Keywords

  • Subjective social indicators
  • Subjective wellbeing
  • Set-points
  • Homeostasis
  • Homeostatically protected mood
  • Global life satisfaction