The Prospective Effect of Life Satisfaction on Life Events

Satisfied people are more likely than dissatisfied people to get married or become parents, and less likely to separate from their spouse, lose their job, start a new job, or relocate in the next five years.

Much research has been conducted to understand well-being, happiness, and satisfaction. Many studies show that higher life satisfaction (LS) is prospectively associated with greater occupational success, better health, and even delayed mortality. This study aims to assess whether LS is also associated with specific life events—marriage, marital separation, widowhood, childbirth, job loss, starting a new job, retirement, and relocating.

Using data from three large, national longitudinal studies: the Households, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey, the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), and the German Socioeconomic Panel (SOEP), the current study examined the prospective effect of LS on the event over a five-year span, and then examined whether controlling for income, education, and the Big Five personality traits altered the effects. Data from 2002 to 2007 was examined.

Key Findings:

  • Satisfied people are more likely than dissatisfied people to get married or become parents in the next five years.
  • Satisfied people are less likely to separate from their spouse, lose their job, start a new job, or relocate in the next five years as compared to dissatisfied people.
  • These effects held after controlling for gender, age, socioeconomic stages and the Big Five.
  • Further analysis shows that temporary as opposed to stable mechanisms account for the prospective effect of LS.

LS is valuable in predicting life outcomes. Further research should analyze data from other countries to assess cultural differences.