CiteWeb id: 20130000013

CiteWeb score: 7660

W. Wilson's (1967) review of the area of subjective well-being (SWB) advanced several conclusions regarding those who report high levels of "happiness." A number of his conclusions have been overturned: youth and modest aspirations no longer are seen as prerequisites of SWB. E. Diener's (1984) review placed greater emphasis on theories that stressed psychological factors. In the current article, the authors review current evidence for Wilson's conclusions and discuss modern theories of SWB that stress dispositional influences, adaptation, goals, and coping strategies. The next steps in the evolution of the field are to comprehend the interaction of psychological factors with life circumstances in producing SWB, to understand the causal pathways leading to happiness, understand the processes underlying adaptation to events, and develop theories that explain why certain variables differentially influence the different components of SWB (life satisfaction, pleasant affect, and unpleasant affect). In 1967, Warner Wilson presented a broad review of subjective well-being (SWB) research entitled, "Correlates of Avowed Happiness." Based on the limited data available at that time, Wilson concluded that the happy person is a "young, healthy, welleducated, well-paid, extroverted, optimistic, worry-free, religious, married person with high self-esteem, job morale, modest aspirations, of either sex and of a wide range of intelligence" (p. 294). In the three decades since Wilson's review, investigations into SWB have evolved. Although researchers now know a great deal more about the correlates of SWB, they are less interested in simply describing the demographic characteristics that correlate with it. Instead, they focus their effort on understanding the processes that underlie happiness. This trend represents a greater recognition of the central role played by people's goals, coping efforts, and dispositions. In this article, we review research on several major theoretical approaches to well-being and then indicate how these theories clarify the findings on demographic correlates of SWB. Throughout the review we suggest four directions that researchers should pursue in the decades ahead. These are by no means the only questions left to answer, but we believe they are the most interesting issues left to resolve. First, the causal direction of the correlates of happiness must be examined through more sophisticated methodologies. Although the causal priority of demographic factors such as marriage and income is intuitively appealing, it is by no means certain. Second, researchers must focus greater attention on the interaction between internal factors (such as personality traits) and external circumstances. As we shall see, demographic factors have surprisingly small effects on SWB, but these effects may depend on the personalities of those individuals being studied. Thus, future research must take Person X Situation interactions into account. Third, researchers must strive to understand the processes underlying adaptation. Considerable adaptation to both good and bad circumstances often occurs, yet the processes responsible for these effects are poorly understood. Research that examines how habituation, coping strategies, and changing goals influence adaptation will shed much light on the processes responsible for SWB. Finally, theories must be refined to make specific predictions about how input variables differentially influence the components of SWB. In the past, many researchers have treated SWB as a monolithic entity, but it is now clear that there are separable components that exhibit unique patterns of relations with different variables. In each section of this article we discuss progress and opportunities in these four areas.