Life satisfaction set point: stability and change

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2005 Jan;88(1):158-64. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.88.1.158.


Using data from 17 years of a large and nationally representative panel study from Germany, the authors examined whether there is a set point for life satisfaction (LS)--stability across time, even though it can be perturbed for short periods by life events. The authors found that 24% of respondents changed significantly in LS from the first 5 years to the last 5 years and that stability declined as the period between measurements increased. Average LS in the first 5 years correlated .51 with the 5-year average of LS during the last 5 years. Height, weight, body mass index, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and personality traits were all more stable than LS, whereas income was about as stable as LS. Almost 9% of the sample changed an average of 3 or more points on a 10-point scale from the first 5 to last 5 years of the study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Body Height / physiology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Life Change Events*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Personality Assessment
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Time Factors