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07.12.2019 | Research Paper Open Access

Vacations Over the Years: A Cross-Lagged Panel Analysis of Tourism Experiences and Subjective Well-Being in the Netherlands

Journal of Happiness Studies
Ondrej Mitas, Maarten Kroesen
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Tourism experiences, also called vacations, are known to boost subjective well-being, although it has been argued that the effects are primarily affective in nature and short-lived. We argue that this is a methodological artifact due to the brief duration—1 year or less—of almost all extant longitudinal studies of tourism experience effects. Based on broaden-and-build and personal resource theories, we hypothesize that tourism experiences contribute to both affective and cognitive components of subjective well-being over a multi-year timespan. Using random intercept cross-lagged panel models, we tested these hypotheses in 8 years of panel data based on a representative sample of the population of the Netherlands. We found both between- and within-individual effects of vacation frequency on cognitive as well as affective well-being. More frequent vacationers experienced higher life satisfaction and lower negative affect, while the average participant also experienced slightly higher life satisfaction and positive affect following a year with higher vacation frequency. Increases in life satisfaction also predicted more frequent vacationing in a following year, consistent with an “upward spiral” pattern of improving well-being based on accumulation of positive experiences, as suggested by the broaden-and-build theory.

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