Monday, June 14, 2021

Positive Outcomes of Wellbeing

Positive Outcomes of Wellbeing. M. Joseph Sirgy. The Psychology of Quality of Life pp 59-78, June 10 2021.

Abstract: This chapter discusses outcomes related to hedonic wellbeing, life satisfaction, and Eudaimonia. These outcomes include good health, high levels of achievement and work, good social relationships, prosocial engagement, trust, optimism, future happiness. The chapter also highlights research on how much happiness is optimal, how happiness is adaptive in life, and how it serves to buffer illbeing.

Keywords: Hedonic wellbeing Life satisfaction Eudaimonia Subjective wellbeing Happiness Positive mental health Health Achievement and work Social relationships Prosocial behavior Trust Optimism Future happiness Optimal happiness Adaptive Illbeing 

From the 2012 edition:

4 How Much Happiness Is Optimal?

Friedman, Schwartz, and Haaga (2002) investigated the effects of being too happy. They compared those who are very happy and those who are moderately happy in relation to dysfunction across a variety of measures of subjective, physiological, and behavioral adjustment. The results showed no significant differences between those who are too happy and the moderately happy in terms of hypomanic symptoms, defensive self-deception, or aggressive behavior when challenged. Suldo and Huebner (2006) posed the question: Is extremely high life satisfaction during adolescence advantageous? They conducted a study to capture the relationship between life satisfaction and adaptive/maladaptive functioning of adolescents. Life satisfaction was captured using several measures of subjective well-being. They then divided the sample in three groups: very high (top 10%), average (middle 25%), and very low (lowest 10%). The high satisfaction group scored higher on all indicators of adaptive psychological functioning and lowest scores on emotional and behavioral problems Oishi, Diener, and Lucas (2009) predicted that a moderate level of happiness is best for life outcomes that require self-improvement motivation and analytical skills (e.g., academic achievement, job performance, and wealth accumulation). Some degree of dissatisfaction of their current state of affairs would motivate people to do better, thereby achieve more positive life outcomes. A certain amount of dissatisfaction is needed to motivate people to do better on academic tasks and their jobs. Otherwise, the motivation may be absent if they are too happy. A high level of happiness may lead to complacency. Using the same logic, they also predicted that moderate levels of happiness should lead to higher levels of political participation than high levels of happiness. People have to be somewhat dissatis fi ed with the current political situation to be motivated to take corrective action. Similarly, mod-erate happiness leads to a high degree of volunteer work, more so than high levels of happiness. In contrast, they predicted that very happy people are more likely to stay married than the moderately happy. The moderately happy people may be motivated to try other partners (i.e., engage in extramarital affairs during marriage or divorce for the purpose of coupling with others). Similarly, they predicted that situations less than ideal may call for moderate happiness. In other words, the moderately happy is more likely to change circumstances than are less than ideal. The very happy are likely to be complacent. To test these predictions, the authors used data from the World Values Survey (administered in 1981, 1990, 1995, and 2000) involving a sample of 118,519 respondents from 96 countries and regions around the globe. The predictions concerning income, education, and political participation were supported. The highest levels of income, education, and political participa-tions were most evident in people reporting moderate-to-high than very high levels of life satisfaction. Similarly, the hypothesis concerning marriage and close relationships was also supported. The highest proportion of respondents in a stable intimate relationship was observed among respondents with very high life satisfaction scores. However, contrary to their prediction, the highest levels of volunteerism were observed among the very satisfied respondents. The same set of hypotheses was retested using a sample of college students in which happiness was captured through a positive/negative affect measure. The same pattern of results was evident. That is, the happiest students tended to score high on social domain measures (gregarious, close friends, self-confidence, energy, and time dating) but did not always score high on achievement/conscientiousness measures (grade point average, missed class, event balance, and conscientiousness). The moderately happy scored high on achievement/conscientiousness measures but less so on the social domain measures. The authors then turned their attention to testing their hypothesis regarding achievement and income using two longitudinal surveys (Diener et al., 2002 and the Australian Youth Data). With respect to the Diener et al.’s data, respondents’ cheer-fulness was measured in 1976 and their reported income in 1995. Those who expressed moderate-to-high levels of cheerfulness reported the highest levels of income. This pattern provides additional support that when it comes to achievement-related tasks, those who are moderately happy do better than those who are very happy. With respect to the Australian Youth Data, respondents that reported life satisfaction scores in 1979 were matched with their income, educational level, and length of marital relationship scores in 1994. Again, the same pattern was evident. Those who expressed moderate level of happiness in 1979 reported the highest income and educational level in 1994. In contrast, those who expressed high levels of happiness in 1979 reported the highest degree of marriage tenure. The income/happiness relationship was also replicated using two large-scale longitudinal survey studies: the German Socio-Economic Panel Study and the British Household Panel Study. The authors conclude:

Thus, the optimal mindset for an intimate relationship might be to see the most positive aspects of the partner and relationship, whereas the optimal mindset for income, education, and political participation might be to consider the empty part of the glass as well as the fullness of it (Oishi, et al., 2009 , p. 19).

5  Happiness Is Adaptive


Diener and Oishi ( 2011 ) also provided much evidence that indicates two key points: (1) the majority of people are moderately happy, and (2) happier people tend to have an evolutionary advantage in terms of longevity, fecundity, more resources, and better health and healthier children (which translates into an advantage to sur-vival and reproductive fitness). For supportive evidence, the reader should consult the following broad reviews and meta-analyses studies: Diener and Chan (2011) , Howell, Kern, and Lyubomirsky (2007), Lyubomirsky et al. (2005), and Pressman and Cohen (2005). If so, the same authors (Diener and Oishi) pose the question “why happiness is not more widespread?” One would expect that because of its evolutionary advan-tage that happiest people should be in the majority, but this is not the case. The authors answer this question by arguing that moderate levels of happiness seem to be more adaptive than either very high or low levels of happiness. Very high and very low levels of happiness are detrimental to health. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that it is harmful (healthwise and in relation to daily functioning) to feel intensely happy much of the time (e.g., Gruber, Mauss, & Tamir, 2011 ; McCarron, Gunnell, Harrison, Okasha, & Davey Smith, 2003; Ritz & Steptoe, 2000). Furthermore, negative emotions have an adaptive function. Schwarz ( 2002 ) reviews evidence that shows how negative affect can be adaptive. Negative affect motivates people to focus more narrowly and critically analyze information, which in turn leads to effective problem solution. Negative affect motivates people to make changes to better their lives. Grinde (2002) argues that people are genetically disposed to be in a positive mood. That is, the default evolutionary option is to be in a good mood. Evolution dictates that the individual who is happy is more likely to engage in more procreation acts and life-supporting functions, compared to those who are less happy (perhaps depressed). Happiness also plays a role in good health. Those who are happy live longer lives because they experience lower stress, and stress is associated with morbidity. Feelings of happiness are directly related to need satisfaction, and of course, gratification of personal needs is positively associated with survival, prosperity, and procreation. Happy people are optimistic, and optimism has a strong survival value.