Are we happier with others? An investigation of the links between spending time with others and subjective well-being

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2020 Sep;119(3):672-694. doi: 10.1037/pspp0000290. Epub 2020 Mar 23.


Previous research suggests that having close relationships is a fundamental human need that, when fulfilled, is positively associated with subjective well-being. Recently, however, scholars have argued that actually interacting with one's closest partners may be psychologically taxing (e.g., because of pressures to provide support, care, and empathy). In the present research, we tested (a) how experiential affect varied as a function of which persons were currently present (e.g., romantic partners, friends, and colleagues), as well as (b) how global well-being varied as a function of total daily time invested in these individuals. Replicating previous research, participants reported the highest levels of experiential well-being in the company of their friends, followed by their romantic partners, and then children. Statistically controlling for the activities performed with others, however, suggested that individuals did not necessarily prefer the mere company of their friends per se: people reported similar levels of well-being while in the presence of friends, partners, and children when adjusting estimates for activities. In contrast to the experiential findings, global well-being varied only as a function of total time spent with one's romantic partner. Our findings further support the claim that experiential and global well-being are often separable constructs that may show different patterns of association with relationship experiences (e.g., well-being may operate differently on within- vs. between-persons levels). (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Social Interaction*
  • Time Factors