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Can a Good Life Be Unsatisfying? Within-Person Dynamics of Life Satisfaction and Psychological Well-Being in Late Midlife

Henry R Cowan
Psychological Science 2019 March 21, : 956797619831981
Psychological investigations into the structure of well-being have been largely cross-sectional. However, longitudinal models are needed as Western societies work to improve individual well-being. The current multilevel-modeling study examined within-person dynamics of well-being over 8 years. I asked two questions: (a) How do life satisfaction and psychological well-being (measures drawn from two well-being research traditions) relate over time? and (b) do these relationships vary on the basis of individuals' extraversion or neuroticism? Measures of life satisfaction and psychological well-being were collected in 8 consecutive years from 159 American adults in late midlife. A dispositional-life-satisfaction set point and yearly variation in life satisfaction both related to higher yearly psychological well-being. Neuroticism, but not extraversion, predicted a stronger within-person relationship between life satisfaction and psychological well-being. For participants with very low neuroticism, life satisfaction and psychological well-being varied independently. In sum, experiences of life satisfaction and psychological well-being converged for more neurotic individuals and diverged for more emotionally stable participants.


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