Happy Soldiers are High Achievers


Vie, L. L., Stewart, E. P., Seligman, M. E. P., & Diener, E. (submitted). Happy Soldiers are High Achievers.


We analyzed whether levels of positive affect, negative affect, and optimism predict performance of soldiers in the US Army. Our study followed 908,096 soldiers over a 4-7 year period, and analyzed whether subjective well-being (SWB) predicted service awards and heroism awards.  Positive affect and optimism predicted, and negative emotions inversely predicted, both awards for service and for heroism. The associations held for both women and men, for enlisted soldiers as well as officers, for several ethnicities, for varying levels of education, and controlling for a number of potential confounds. Going from the lowest to highest levels of well-being more than doubled the probability of winning an award. However, the effects tended to be curvilinear, with smaller gains seen after middle levels of well-being were reached. Both high and low arousal positive affect, as well as low anger/hostility and low sadness also predicted numbers of awards, whereas anxiety/worry was not a substantial predictor. Each of the three types of well-being predicted outcomes even when controlling for the other two. Although the associations for positive affect and optimism with awards generalized across groups, they tended to be somewhat stronger for less educated and male soldiers.

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