Affective states and the notion of happiness

Volume 4 - Issue 1
Heinz Welsch Jan Kühling
Pages: 101-114 Download Count : 2514 View Count: 3038 Facebook Share on Google+ Save to Zotero Save to Mendeley


Social surveys have increasingly elicited citizen’s happiness and life satisfaction, but the content of these notions is vague. This paper uses correlation and regression analysis of survey data from a student sample (N = 144) to explore how reports of happiness and life satisfaction are related to measures of positive affect (PA) and negative affect (NA). Major findings are the following: (1) PA and NA levels jointly predict happiness better than they predict life satisfaction. (2) PA levels predict happiness better than do NA levels. (3) NA levels predict life satisfaction better than do PA levels. (4) The PA items that predict happiness include those that predict life satisfaction (but not vice versa). (5) The NA items that predict happiness are distinct from those that predict life satisfaction. The study contributes to the literature by characterizing reported happiness and life satisfaction in terms of the specific positive and negative affects involved, thus clarifying their respective affective state content. Finding (4) is consistent with the mediator model of affective and cognitive well-being, according to which people in part directly rely on the affective component to judge life satisfaction. Given the nature and size of our sample, the results are indicative, and the study should inspire future research that strives to validate our findings in different contexts.


  • Happiness
  • life satisfaction
  • positive affect
  • negative affect
  • social welfare
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