Life-satisfaction is more a matter of how well you feel, than of having what you want

S Kainulainen, R Veenhoven

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademic


In assessing how satisfied we are with our lives as a whole, we draw on two sources of information: how well we feel most of the time and to what extend life has brought us what we want from it. Though it is generally agreed that both affective and cognitive appraisals are involved, there is difference in opinion on their relative weight in the overall evaluation of life. This difference is related to a discussion on the nature of happiness; need-theory predicts the greater weight of affective experience, while comparison theory predicts the greater weight of perceived success in meeting wants. This issue was investigated in a study among the working age population in Finland in 2012. As a first step we assessed whether respondents recognize the theoretical difference between feeling well and having what you want; 51% answered an inconsistent combination of feeling well without having all they want. Respondents also answered three single questions using the same format on 1) overall satisfaction with life, 2) how pleasant or unpleasant they feel most of the time and 3) to what extent life has brought them what they want from it. Responses to the question on how one feels most of the time correlated more strongly with life satisfaction than responses to the question of getting what one wants. This pattern was replicated in various subgroups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-235
Number of pages27
JournalInternational Journal of Happiness and Development
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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