Subjective well-being across the lifespan worldwide: The role of culture and changing priorities.


Morrison, M., Jebb, A.T., Tay, L., & Diener, E. (revise and resubmit). Subjective well-being across the lifespan worldwide: The role of culture and changing priorities.


Utilizing data from a Gallup World Poll including 155 countries, we examined how patterns of subjective well-being (SWB; life satisfaction and affective experiences) differed across the lifespan, sociocultural differences in these patterns, and what were the best predictors of SWB among different age groups. In doing so, we tested tenets of sociocultural perspectives on aging, Erikson’s (1963) stage theory of psychosocial development, and Socioemotional Selectivity Theory (Carstensen, 2006). We found a small increase in life satisfaction with age, a curvilinear pattern for negative affect, and that positive affect diminished with age. Older individuals were highest among all age groups in past life satisfaction, while youth were consistently highest in predicted future life satisfaction. Social contacts, being employed, having an important purpose, being treated with respect, experiencing pride and pro-social behaviors were predictive of SWB for all age groups. Marital status had a negative relationship with SWB in young adulthood in most regions but became positive for older age groups. Employment status was a stronger predictor of SWB for the middle-aged than for other age groups, and pro-social behaviors were stronger predictors for the elderly. Variables related to life meaning generally grew more predictive with age. Regional variations were found for many of the effects. These important findings enhance our understanding of how SWB differs across the lifespan in different corners of the world, what matters most for well-being at different points in life, and provides unique support and refinement of theories of psychosocial development, motivation, and cross-cultural perspectives on aging.

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