Happy Soldiers are Highest Performers


Lester, P. B., Stewart, E. P., Vie, L. L., Bonett, D. G., Seligman, M. E., & Diener, E. (2021). Happy Soldiers are Highest Performers. Journal of Happiness Studies, 1-22. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-021-00441-x


We examined the prediction of affective well-being to work performance in the United States Army. We found that high positive affect (PA), low negative affect (NA), and high optimism predicted awards for performance and heroism in a sample of 908,096 U.S. Army soldiers (mean age 29.60 years old, SD = 9.16 years; with over ¼ of a million ethnic minorities and over 150,000 women). Baseline high PA, low NA, and high optimism predicted awards over a four-year follow up window, in which 114,443 soldiers (12.60%) received an award. Each well-being variable predicted future awards 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 other potential explanatory variables. The effects of high positive and low negative affect were additive, with each predicting significantly beyond the other. Comparing the soldiers highest vs. lowest in well-being predicted an almost fourfold greater award recognition in the high group. Awards were predicted by both high and low arousal positive emotions, as well as low sadness and low anger. The relations between
PA, NA, and optimism with award attainment were curvilinear, with the greatest difference in award attainment occurring between low and moderate levels of affective well-being, with little effect between moderate and high well-being.

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