Can happiness change? The short- and long-term relationships between subjective well-being and external circumstances -PhD thesis-

Publication type

Thesis/Degree/Other Honours


Publication date

June 1, 2010


Subjective well-being (SWB) is a broad construct consisting of peoples’ affective and cognitive evaluations of their lives (Diener, 1984). An important theoretical model is the set-point model according to which SWB fluctuates around a stable set point that is determined by heritable factors such as personality (e. g., Brickman, Coates, & Janoff-Bulman, 1978; Headey & Wearing, 1989; Lykken & Tellegen, 1996). According to this model, external life circumstances play a minor role in determining individuals’ level of SWB, presumably because people adapt quickly and inevitably to any changes in life circumstances. Recent research, however, indicates that the relevance of external factors for SWB might have been underestimated by this theory (Diener, Lucas, & Scollon, 2006). For instance, specific major life events such as bereavement or unemployment have been shown to lead to lasting decreases in SWB (Lucas, Clark, Georgellis, & Diener, 2003, 2004). This raises the question which external life circumstances can lead to short- or long-term changes in SWB.






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