Resilience of self-reported life satisfaction: A case study of who conforms to set-point theory in Australia

Ida Kubiszewski, Nabeeh Ibrahim Zakariyya, Robert Costanza, Diane Jarvis

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    While self-reported life satisfaction (LS) has become an important research and policy tool, much debate still surrounds the question of what causes LS to change in certain individuals, while not in others. Set-point theory argues that individuals have a relatively resilient LS or "set point"(i.e. there is a certain LS level that individuals return to even after major life events). Here, we describe the extent to which LS varies over time for 12,643 individuals living in Australia who participated in at least eight annual waves of the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey. We use the standard deviation (SD) of yearon- year LS by individuals (SD of LS) as a measure of instability and an inverse proxy for resilience. We then model SD of LS as the dependent variable against average LS scores over time by individual, Big Five personality scores by individual, the number of waves the individual participated in, and other control variables. We found that SD of LS was higher (lower resilience) in participants with a lower average LS and greater degrees of extraversion and agreeableness. Set-point theory thus applies more to individuals whose average LS is already high and whose personality traits facilitate higher resilience. We were able to explain about 35% of the stability in LS. These results are critical in designing policies aimed at improving people's lives.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-18
    JournalPLOS ONE (Public Library of Science)
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


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