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07.02.2015 | Research Paper | Ausgabe 2/2016 Open Access

Journal of Happiness Studies 2/2016

Lay Understanding of Happiness and the Experience of Well-Being: Are Some Conceptions of Happiness More Beneficial than Others?

Journal of Happiness Studies > Ausgabe 2/2016
Agnieszka Bojanowska, Anna M. Zalewska


The aim of the study was to understand aspects of life that men and women associate with happiness and to explore the connections between these associations and well-being (measured as positive affect, negative affect and life satisfaction) in different periods of life. Participants were 785 people who were asked to list associations that came to mind on hearing the word ‘happiness’. The moderating roles of gender and period of life (adolescence/adulthood, transition/no transition) were analysed. Participants associated happiness mostly with health and relationships. Other categories included knowledge, work, material goods and freedom. Those who associated happiness with work had higher levels of positive affect. Associating happiness with relationships predicted greater life satisfaction, whereas associating it with material goods predicted lower satisfaction. Gender moderated the relationship between associations and positive affect: associating happiness with material goods decreased positive affect among men but no such effect was observed among women; associating happiness with relationships was beneficial for women but unbeneficial for men. Additionally, associations with material goods predicted lower positive affect, especially in times of transition. Associating happiness with knowledge decreased positive affect in adolescents and increased it in adults. Some ways of understanding happiness improved life satisfaction but none were related to negative affect. The relationship between concepts of happiness and positive affect is complex; some concepts are unbeneficial only for some people and during certain periods of life.

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