Do we transmit our long-term happiness? Longitudinal evidence of life-satisfaction crossover within marriage

Publication type

Research Paper


Publication date

January 1, 2007


There is, as yet, no direct quantitative evidence that crossover of life-satisfaction
exists in married couples. One hypothesis from set-point theories of subjective wellbeing
is that crossover effect of life-satisfaction within-couple may diminish quickly
over time, and hence may not be detected in a longitudinal study with time lag of at
least one year. I tested this idea by examining the dynamics of life-satisfaction
transmission in a 6-year longitudinal study of 4,162 British couples. Results show
that there was a significant and lasting impact of one spouse’s life-satisfaction from
the previous year on change in the other spouse’s life-satisfaction from the previous
year to the current year. There was evidence of reciprocity in the effect for both
husbands and wives, which was not moderated by the between-couple
characteristics. Overall, these results suggest that one spouse’s satisfaction can have
a strong influence on the other spouse’s long-term levels of subjective well-being.






Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest