Associations between Mental Well-being and Personality from a Life Span Perspective

  • Katja Kokko
  • Johanna Rantanen
  • Lea Pulkkinen


Empirical studies show that personality traits and mental well-being are associated in adulthood. On the basis of a meta-analysis of 197 samples, DeNeve and Cooper (1998) concluded that personality traits explained about 4 per cent of the variance of emotional well-being. Of the Big Five personality traits, neuroticism was the most consistently associated with emotional well-being: it contributed to low life satisfaction and happiness and to high negative affectivity. More recently, Steel, Schmidt, and Shultz (2008) found in their meta-analysis of 347 samples that the role of the Big Five personality traits in emotional well-being is even more important: 40 to 60 per cent of the variance of emotional well-being was explained by personality traits. In line with DeNeve and Cooper’s observations, neuroticism was the trait mostly highly — negatively — linked to different components of emotional well-being, such as happiness, life satisfaction, affectivity, and quality of life. Extraversion was also (positively) associated with emotional well-being, in particular with happiness, life satisfaction, and positive affect. The remaining three personality traits — conscientiousness, openness, and agreeableness — also had some significant associations with specific components of emotional well-being. Steel et al. propose that the different weight given to personality traits as predictors of emotional well-being in the two meta-analyses can be explained by differences in ways of classifying the personality traits and well-being.


Life Satisfaction Personality Trait Behavioural Activity Developmental Trajectory Trajectory Group 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ardelt, M. (2000). Still stable after all these years? Personality stability theory revisited. Social Psychology Quarterly, 63, 392–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baltes, P. B., Reese, H. W., & Lipsitt, L. P. (1980). Life-span developmental psychology. Annual Review of Psychology, 31, 65–110.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Caspi, A. (1998). Personality development across the life course. In W. Damon (Series Ed.), & N. Eisenberg (Vol. Ed.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 3. Social, emotional, and personality development (5th ed., pp. 311–388). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  4. Costa, P. T. Jr, & McCrae, R. R. (1989). The NEO/NEO-FFI manual supplement. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.Google Scholar
  5. DeNeve, K. M., & Cooper, H. (1998). The happy personality: A meta-analysis of 137 personality traits and subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 124, 197–229.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Depue, R. (1987). General Behavior Inventory. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, Department of Psychology.Google Scholar
  7. Diener, E. (1984). Subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 95, 542–575.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Diener, E., & Lucas, R. E. (1999). Personality and subjective well-being. In D. Kahneman, E. Diener, & N. Schwartz (Eds), Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology (pp. 213–229). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  9. Elliot, A. J., & Thrash, T. M. (2002). Approach-avoidance motivation in personality: Approach and avoidance temperaments and goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 804–818.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Feldman, L. A. (1995). Valence arousal and arousal focus: Individual differences in the structure of affective experience. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 153–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Jones, B. L., Nagin, D. S., & Roeder, K. (2001). A SAS procedure based on mixture models for estimating developmental trajectories. Sociological Methods and Research, 29, 374–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Keyes, C. L. M. (1998). Social well-being. Social Psychology Quarterly, 61, 121–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Keyes, C. L. (2002). The mental health continuum: From languishing to flourishing in life. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 43, 207–222.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Kokko, K., Korkalainen, A., Lyyra, A.-L., & Feldt, T. (2013b). Structure and continuity of well-being in mid-adulthood: A longitudinal study. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14, 99–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kokko, K., Tolvanen, A., & Pulkkinen, L. (2013a). Associations between personality traits and psychological well-being across time in middle adulthood. Journal of Research in Personality, 47, 748–756.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kokkonen, M. (2001). Emotion regulation and physical health in adulthood: A longitudinal, personality-oriented approach (Jyväskylä Studies in Education, Psychology and Social Research, No. 184). Jyväskylä, Finland: University of Jyväskylä.Google Scholar
  17. Lamers, S., Westerhof, G. J., Kovács, V., & Bohlmeijer, E. T. (2012). Differential relationships in the association of the Big Five personality traits with positive mental health and psychopathology. Journal of Research in Personality, 46, 517–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Mayer, J. D., & Gaschke, Y. N. (1988). The experience and meta-experience of mood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55, 102–111.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. McCrae, R. R., & Costa, T. T. Jr, (2003). Personality in adulthood: A five-factor theory perspective. New York: The Guilford Publications.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (1998–2012). Mplus User’s Guide (7th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Muthén & Muthén.Google Scholar
  21. Nagin, D. S. (1999). Analyzing developmental trajectories: A semi-parametric, group-based approach. Psychological Methods, 4, 139–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Nagin, D. S. (2005). Group-based modeling of development. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Perho, H., & Korhonen, M. (1993). Elämänvaiheiden onnellisuus ja sisältö keski-iän kynnyksellä [Happiness and content of different life phases in the frontier of mid-adulthood]. Gerontologia, 7, 271–285.Google Scholar
  24. Pulkkinen, L. (2006). The Jyväskylä longitudinal study of personality and social development. In L. Pulkkinen, J. Kaprio, & R. J. Rose (Eds), Socioemotional development and health from adolescence to adulthood (pp. 29–55). New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Pulkkinen, L. (2009). Personality — A resource or risk for successful development. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 6, 602–610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Pulkkinen, L., Feldt, T., & Kokko, K. (2005). Personality in young adulthood and functioning in middle age. In S. Willis, & M. Martin (Eds), Middle adulthood: A lifespan perspective (pp. 99–141). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Pulkkinen, L., Feldt, T., & Kokko, K. (2006). Adaptive behavior in childhood as an antecedent of psychological functioning in early middle age: Linkage via career orientation. Social Indicators Research, 77, 171–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Pulkkinen, L., & Kokko, K. (Eds) (2010). Keski-ikä elämänvaiheena [Middle age as a stage of life]. Psykologian laitoksen julkaisuja, Nro. 352. Jyväskylä: Jyväskylän yliopisto.Google Scholar
  29. Pulkkinen, L., & Kokko, K. (2012). Foundational issues in longitudinal data collection. In B. Laursen, T. D. Little, & N. A. Card (Eds), Handbook of developmental research methods (pp. 129–147). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  30. Pulkkinen, L., Kokko, K., & Rantanen, J. (2012). Paths from socioemotional behavior in middle childhood to personality in middle adulthood. Developmental Psychology, 48, 1283–1291.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Pulkkinen, L., Lyyra, A.-L., & Kokko, K. (2009). Life success of males on nonoffender, adolescence-limited, persistent, and adult-onset antisocial pathways: Follow-up from age 8 to 42. Aggressive Behaviour, 35, 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pulkkinen, L., Nygren, H., & Kokko, K. (2002). Successful development: Childhood antecedents of adaptive psychosocial functioning in adulthood. Journal of Adult Development, 9, 251–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rantanen, J., Metsäpelto, R.-L., Feldt, T., Pulkkinen, L., & Kokko, K. (2007). Long-term stability in the Big Five personality traits in adulthood. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 48, 511–518.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Roberts, B. W., & DelVecchio, W. F. (2000). The rank-order consistency of personality traits from childhood to old age: A quantitative review of longitudinal studies. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 3–25.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Roberts, B. W., Walton, K. E., & Viechtbauer, W. (2006). Patterns of mean-level change in personality traits across the life course: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 1–25.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Rothbart, M. K., & Derryberry, D. (2002). Temperament in children. In C. Hofsten, & L. Bäckman (Eds), Psychology at the turn of the millennium: Social, developmental, and clinical perspectives (Vol. 2, pp. 17–35). East Sussex, England: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  37. 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
  38. Srivastava, S., John, O. P., Gosling, S. D., & Potter, J. (2003). Development of personality in early and middle adulthood: Set like plaster or persistent change? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 1041–1053.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Steel, P., Schmidt, J., & Shultz, J. (2008). Refining the relationship between personality and subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 134, 138–161.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Stone, A. A., Schwartz, J. E., Broderick, J. E., & Deaton, A. (2011). A snapshot of the age distribution of psychological well-being in the United States. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107, 9985–9990.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Weiss, A., Bates, T. C., & Luciano, M. (2008). Happiness is a personal(ity) thing: The genetics of personality and well-being in a representative sample. Psychological Science, 19, 205–210.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Katja Kokko, Johanna Rantanen, and Lea Pulkkinen 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katja Kokko
  • Johanna Rantanen
  • Lea Pulkkinen

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations