Types of Subjective Well-Being and Their Associations with Relationship Outcomes

  • Shannon Moore University of Utah and The U. S. Army Research Lab, United States
  • Ed Diener University of Utah, University of Virginia, and The Gallup Organization, United States


The authors examined the associations between three facets of subjective well-being (SWB; positive affect, negative affect, and life satisfaction) and relationship outcomes, employing multilevel models to analyze data from 90 couples. It was found that as participants’ self-reported positive affect increased, they also reported higher perceived support from their partners, greater relationship satisfaction, perceived partners as being more helpful and less upsetting in support situations, and rated their partners as more important. As self-reported negative affect increased, participants reported lower perceived support from partners, lower relationship satisfaction, and perceived partners as less helpful and more upsetting. As self-reported life satisfaction increased, participants reported higher perceived support from partners, greater relationship satisfaction, and rated partners as more helpful and less upsetting. It was also found that participants’ greater self-reported SWB was positively associated with their partners’ reported relationship outcomes, even after controlling for the partners’ own SWB. Thus, not only do those with higher SWB perceive their relationship as being of better quality, their partners also rate the relationship more positively. This finding suggests that people high in SWB do not just perceive their relationship as better, but create a better relationship for their partner as well. This finding also indicates that it is not just happy people perceiving everything, including their relationships, as superior, but that they have better relationships from the partner’s viewpoint.
Subjective well-being, happiness, relationships, relationship quality


Download data is not yet available.


Aknin, L. B., Dunn, E. W., & Norton, M. I. (2012). Happiness runs in a circular motion: Evidence for a positive feedback loop between prosocial spending and happiness. Journal of Happiness Studies, 13, 347-355.

Byrne, D., Clore, G.L., & Smeaton, G. (1986). The attraction hypothesis: Do similar attitudes affect anything? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 1167-1170.

Campo, R. A., Uchino, B. N., Holt-Lunstad, J., Vaughn, A. A., Reblin, M., & Smith, T. W. (2009). The assessment of positivity and negativity in social networks: The reliability and validity of the social relationships index. Journal of Community Psychology, 37, 471–486.

Cantril, H. (1965). The pattern of human concerns. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Carr, D., Freedman, V. A., Cornman, J. C., & Schwarz, N. (2014). Happy marriage, happy life? Marital quality and subjective well-being in later life. Journal of Marriage and The Family, 76(5), 930-948.

Cohen, O., Geron, Y., & Farchi, A. (2009). Marital quality and global well-being among older adult Israeli couples in enduring marriages. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 37(4), 299-317. DOI: 10.1080/01926180802405968

Cohen, S., & Hoberman, H. M. (1983). Positive events and social supports as buffers of life change stress. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 13(2), 99.

Diener, E. (Ed.). (2009). The science of well-being: The collected works of Ed Diener (Vol. 37). Springer Science and Business Media.

Diener, E., Ng, W., Harter, J., & Arora, R. (2010). Wealth and happiness across the world: Material prosperity predicts life evaluation, whereas psychosocial prosperity predicts positive feeling. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99(1), 52-61.

Diener E., Tay L. (2012). A scientific review of the remarkable benefits of happiness for successful and healthy living. Report of the Well-Being Working Group, Royal Government of Bhutan: Report to the United Nations General Assembly, Well-Being and Happiness: A New Development Paradigm, UN, NY.

Diener, E., Wirtz, D., Tov, W., Kim-Prieto, C., Choi, D. W., Oishi, S., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2010). New well-being measures: Short scales to assess flourishing and positive and negative feelings. Social Indicators Research, 97(2), 143-156.

Feiler, D.C. & Kleinbaum, A.M. (2015). Popularity, similarity, and the network extraversion bias. Psychological Science, 26, 593-603.

Gaunt, R. (2006). Couple similarity and marital satisfaction: Are similar spouses happier? Journal of Personality, 74, 1401-1420.

George, J. M. (1991). State or trait: Effects of positive mood on prosocial behaviors at work. Journal of Applied Psychology, 76, 299-307.

Glenn, N., & Weaver, C. (1981). The contribution of marital happiness to global happiness. Journal of Marriage and Family, 43(1), 161-168. doi:10.2307/351426

Harker, L. & Keltner, D. (2001). Expressions of positive emotion in women’s college yearbook pictures and their relationship to personality and life outcomes across adulthood. Personality Processes and Individual Differences, 80, 112-124.

Hertenstein , M. J., Hansel, C. A., Butts, A. M., & Hile, S. N. (2009). Smile intensity in photographs predicts divorce later in life. Motivation and Emotion, 33, 99-105.

Kainulainen, S., & Saari, J. (2018). Life-satisfaction is more a matter of feeling well than having what you want. Tests of Veenhoven's theory. International Journal of Happiness and Development, 4(3), 209-235.
Kamp Dush, C. M., Taylor, M. G., & Kroeger, R. A. (2008). Marital happiness and psychological well-being across the life course. Family Relations, 57(2), 211-226.

Kansky, J., Allen, J., & Diener, E. (2016). Early adolescent affect predicts beneficial later life outcomes. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 8, 192-212.

Luhmann, M., Lucas, R. E., Eid, M., & Diener, E. (2013). The prospective effect of life satisfaction on life events. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4, 39-45.

Luo, S., Klohnen, E.C. (2005). Assortative mating and marital quality in newlyweds: A couple-centered approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 304-326.

Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131, 803-855.

Lyubomirsky, S., & Layous, K. (2013). How do simple positive activities increase well-being?. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22(1), 57-62.

Marks, G. N., & Fleming, N. (1999). Influences and consequences of well-being among Australian young people: 1980-1995. Social Indicators Research, 46, 301-323.

Moore, S. M. (2016). Support preferences familiarity: How is it related to social support, health, and personality? (Doctoral dissertation, The University of Utah).

Moore, S. M., Diener, E., & Tan, K. (2018). Using multiple methods to more fully understand causal relations: Positive affect enhances social relationships. In E. Diener, S. Oishi, & L. Tay (Eds.), Handbook of well-being. Salt Lake City, UT: DEF Publishers. DOI:nobascholar.com

Nelson, D. W. (2009). Feeling good and open-minded: The impact of positive affect on cross cultural empathic responding. Journal of Positive Psychology, 4, 53-63.

Priller, E., & Schupp, J. (2011). Social and economic characteristics of financial and blood donors in Germany. DIW Economic Bulletin, 1, 23-30.

Proulx, C. M., Helms, H. M., & Buehler, C. (2007). Marital quality and personal well-being: A meta- analysis. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69(3), 576-593.

Raudenbush, S. W., Bryk, A. S., Cheong, Y. F., Congdon, R., & du Toit, M. (2011). HLM 7: Hierarchical Linear and Nonlinear Modeling. Lincolnwood, IL: Scientific Software International.

Saphire-Bernstein, S., & Taylor, S. E. (2013). Close relationships and happiness. In Oxford handbook of happiness.

Shin, J., Choi, H. W., Suh, E. M., & Koo, J. (2013). Do happy teenagers become good citizens? Positive affect builds prosocial perspectives and behavior. Korean Journal of Social and Personality Psychology , 27, 1-21.

Spanier, G. B. (1976). Measuring dyadic adjustment: New scales for assessing the quality of marriage and similar dyads. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 38(1), 15-28.

Tan, K. & Tay, L. (2018). Relationships and well-being. In R. Biswas-Diener & E. Diener (Eds), Noba textbook series: Psychology. Champaign, IL: DEF publishers. DOI:nobaproject.com

Tay, L., Tan, K., Diener, E., & Gonzalez, E. (2013). Social relations, health behaviors, and health outcomes: A survey and synthesis. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 5(1), 28-78.

Waldinger, R. J., Cohen, S., Schulz, M. S., & Crowell, J. A. (2015). Security of attachment to spouses in late life: Concurrent and prospective links with cognitive and emotional well-being. Clinical Psychological Science, 3(4), 516-529.

Waugh, C. E., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2006). Nice to know you: Positive emotions, self-other overlap, and complex understanding in the formation of a new relationship. Journal of Positive Psychology, 1, 93-106.

Whelan, D. C., & Zelinski, J. M. (2012). Experimental evidence that positive moods cause sociability. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3, 430-437.
Online First Articles
February 5, 2019
How to Cite
Moore, S., & Diener, E. (2019). Types of Subjective Well-Being and Their Associations with Relationship Outcomes. Journal of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing, 1-15. Retrieved from http://journalppw.com/index.php/JPPW/article/view/118