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The Determinants of Subjective Well-Being of Young Adults in Europe

Abstract

Subjective well-being (SWB) is a desirable goal for the society as a whole and in particular for young adults (i.e., those aged 18–34) who are a crucial segment of a population. Their importance emerges not only as citizens of contemporary society, but also as citizens of the future society both as participants in democracies and as constituents of the economic labour force. At the same time, young adults are a very vulnerable group that has been particularly affected by the economic downturn. Therefore, young adults’ well-being is increasingly drawing the attention of European policymakers. This paper explores the determinants of SWB of young adults in Europe and examines especially the impact of institutional trust on the overall life satisfaction. Structural equation modelling was used to test main research hypotheses concerning the presence of a positive relation between level of trust and overall life satisfaction once psychological traits, evaluative indicators of specific aspects of life and the other individual characteristics are controlled for. Findings reveal interesting cross-country differences, providing useful policy implications.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    For each indicator variable, high scores relate to high levels of satisfaction or well-being. In order to make scores uniform, some original indicator variables were recoded. In particular, scores of variables pw070 (“feeling calm and peaceful”), pw090 (“Being happy”), and pw220 (“physical security”) were reversed.

  2. 2.

    Multivariate imputation with chained equations was used (MICE, Raghunathan et al. 2001; Van Buuren 2007). An evaluation of the method was performed, and a single imputed value was used for each indicator. Single imputation was chosen and validated with an ANOVA across imputations to test whether the variance within imputations was greater than the variance between imputations for a certain variable. Details of the imputation procedure can be provided upon request.

  3. 3.

    The complete assessment and testing of the latent factor structure can be provided upon request. Hereafter, only selected results are presented.

  4. 4.

    Among the exceptions, we observe that in some countries (usually Nordic or Central Europe countries), the pw160 and/or pw120 indicators (measuring the satisfaction with personal relationships and with time use, respectively) have their highest loadings on a different latent factor than the other indicators that describe the satisfaction with macro-social life domains.

  5. 5.

    For sake of simplicity we just comment the results. The details of the analysis are available upon request.

  6. 6.

    The modification index reflects an approximation of how much the overall model χ2 will decrease if the fixed or constrained parameter is freely estimated. Because the modification index can be conceptualised as a χ2 statistic with 1 degree of freedom, indices of 3.84 or greater (i.e., the critical value of χ2 at p < .05, df = 1) suggest that the overall fit of the model could be significantly improved if the fixed or constrained parameter were freely estimated. Although standardised residuals and modification indices provide specific information for how the fit of the model can be improved, such revisions should only be pursued if they can be justified on empirical or conceptual grounds.

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Correspondence to Antonella D’Agostino.

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Appendix

Appendix

Table 7 Mean values of the indicators used in the analysis

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D’Agostino, A., Grilli, G. & Regoli, A. The Determinants of Subjective Well-Being of Young Adults in Europe. Applied Research Quality Life 14, 85–112 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11482-017-9582-z

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Keywords

  • Subjective well-being
  • Quality of life
  • Institutional trust
  • Young adults
  • Structural equation modelling