SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • Big Five personality traits;
  • Subjective well-being;
  • India

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. METHOD
  4. RESULTS
  5. DISCUSSION
  6. REFERENCES

This study empirically examined the relationship between the Big Five personality traits and subjective well-being (SWB) in India. SWB variables used were life satisfaction, positive affect and negative affect. A total of 183 participants in the age range 30–40 years from Pune, India, completed the personality and SWB measures. Backward stepwise regression analysis showed that the Big Five traits accounted for 17% of the variance in life satisfaction, 35% variance in positive affect and 28% variance in negative affect. Conscientiousness emerged as the strongest predictor of life satisfaction. In line with the earlier research findings, neuroticism and extraversion were found to predict negative affect and positive affect, respectively. Neither openness to experience nor agreeableness contributed to SWB. The research emphasises the need to revisit the association between personality and SWB across different cultures, especially non-western cultures.

The field of subjective well-being (SWB) stresses improving quality of life and aims at helping people have a good life as evaluated by themselves. SWB has been defined as the cognitive and affective evaluations that people make about their life. The cognitive component is measured using satisfaction with life and the affective component is defined in terms of the presence of positive affect and the absence of negative affect (Diener, 1994). Although there may be correlations between life satisfaction, positive affect and negative affect, each may be related to different variables (Diener, 1994; Lucas, Diener, & Suh, 1996).

The focus of SWB research is on understanding the underlying factors that make people happy and satisfied in life. The relationship between personality and SWB has yielded great attention. Past research indicates that both cognitive and affective components of SWB are influenced by personality. A meta-analysis by DeNeve and Cooper (1998) concluded that personality explained 4% of the variance for all SWB indices. However, some recent studies have shown that personality traits account for a much larger percentage of variance in SWB. Using a student sample, Brajša-Žganec, Ivanović, and Lipovčan (2011) found that personality traits together accounted for 17% of the variance in life satisfaction, 37% variance in positive affect and 52% variance in negative affect. A meta-analysis by Steel, Schmidt, and Shultz (2008) indicated that personality traits account for nearly 18% of the variance in life satisfaction, 24% variance in positive affect and 30% variance in negative affect. A recent study by Joshanloo and Afshari (2011) using university students as a sample at Tehran showed that the Big Five personality traits explained about 25% of the variance in life satisfaction.

SWB has been found to be associated with all the Big Five traits; however, the findings are mixed. Studies in western countries have consistently reported extraversion and neuroticism to be an important determinant of SWB. A study by Qingguo, Mike, Bob, Yubo, and Yuwen (2013) showed that extraversion and neuroticism have an effect on SWB in Chinese employees. Yet another study by Otonari et al. (2012) on Japanese students found that neuroticism was strongly associated with each of the three measures of SWB.

As compared to the affective component (positive affect and negative affect) of SWB, relatively few studies have examined the influence of personality traits on the cognitive component of SWB. In most of the studies, neuroticism and extraversion have typically emerged as important predictors of life satisfaction as well as positive affect and negative affect (Gutie'rrez, Jime'nez, Hernandez, & Puente, 2005; Ha & Kim, 2013; Schimmack, Radhakrishnan, Oishi, Dzokoto, & Ahadi, 2002). However, Schimmack et al. (2002) found that extraversion and neuroticism were strong predictors of affective component, but were weaker predictors of life satisfaction in less individualistic cultures. Few studies have also linked conscientiousness and agreeableness with life satisfaction (DeNeve & Cooper, 1998; Hayes & Joseph, 2003; Joshanloo & Afshari, 2011). A meta-analysis by DeNeve and Cooper (1998) showed that conscientiousness had the strongest correlation with life satisfaction. Thus engaging in goal-directed behaviours and being in personal control seems important for being satisfied in life. Some studies have shown that personality traits such as agreeableness and openness to experience have weak correlation with SWB (DeNeve & Cooper, 1998; Diener, Sandvik, Pavot, and Fujita, 1992).

However, the above findings are limited by several factors. First, most of the SWB literature comes from studies conducted in western countries using undergraduate students as the sample. A search of the literature revealed that research studies exploring the relationship between the Big Five personality traits and SWB in Asian countries are relatively sparse. Second, there are also differences in conceptualisation of SWB across studies. Finally, the measures used for personality dimensions and SWB largely vary from study to study. Hence, it is possible that personality traits other than neuroticism and extraversion from the Big Five model are more important predictors in other populations and different cultures. It would be therefore interesting to understand the personality predictors of SWB in adults from non-western nations like India that has a collectivist culture.

Thus, this study attempted to examine the relationship between Big Five personality traits and SWB in the Indian context. The objective of the study was to investigate if the Big Five personality traits significantly differed in their pattern of association with each SWB component in Indian adults. The research work also aimed at understanding the most important Big Five personality predictor for the affective and cognitive components of SWB.

METHOD

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. METHOD
  4. RESULTS
  5. DISCUSSION
  6. REFERENCES

Participants

The sample consisted of a total of 183 respondents (90 males and 93 females) from Pune urban area, India, who participated voluntarily in the study. All the respondents were in the age range of 30–40 years, married and with children. The mean age of male participants was 33.5 years, (SD = 3.80) and that of female participants was 35.7 years (SD = 3.65). The minimum educational qualification of the sample chosen was graduation and all the participants were well versed in English language. The participants completed the SWB measures and NEO Five Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) measuring personality.

Measures

Personality measure

The NEO-FFI which is a 60-item questionnaire based on the five-factor model of personality (Costa & McCrae, 1992) was used. It measures five major personality dimensions, namely Neuroticism (N), Extraversion (E), Openness to Experience (O), Agreeableness (A) and Conscientiousness(C). Each of the five personality factors is measured using 12 items, which makes a total of 60 items. The items are measured using a 5-point rating scale ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree. Cronbach's α value for each dimension were .81, .79, .69, .75 and .88 for N, E, O, A and C, respectively.

Subjective well-being measures
Satisfaction with life

Life satisfaction was measured using Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS; Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985). The SWLS consists of five items and the response format ranges from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). The scale shows good reliability and validity. For this study, the Cronbach's α reliability of .82 was found.

Positive affect and negative affect

To assess the positive and negative affect, Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS), a self-report measure, developed by Watson, Clark, and Tellegen (1988) was used. The scale consists of 20 items and each dimension is measured using 10 items. The participants have to respond to given words describing emotions and feelings by indicating on a 5-point scale (1 = very slightly, not at all; 2 = a little; 3 = moderately; 4 = quite a bit; 5 = extremely) for a given time period. The instrument has been found to be highly reliable (Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988). Cronbach's α in this sample for positive affect was .87 and that of negative affect was .83.

RESULTS

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. METHOD
  4. RESULTS
  5. DISCUSSION
  6. REFERENCES

Table 1 shows the descriptive statistics (Mean and SD) and inter-correlation coefficients (Pearson's r) for all the measures. Consistent with the previous findings, extraversion, neuroticism and conscientiousness were found to be significantly correlated with life satisfaction, positive affect and negative affect. Openness to experience did not correlate with any of the indices of SWB. Agreeableness was found to be negatively correlated to negative affect; however, agreeableness did not show any significant correlations with life satisfaction and positive affect.

Table 1. Mean, standard deviations and correlations for Big Five traits and SWB variables
 MeanSDNeuroticismExtraversionOpenness to experienceAgreeablenessConscientiousness
  1. *p < .05, **p < .01.

Satisfaction with life24.375.04−0.20**0.32**−0.020.090.35**
Positive affect43.717.62−0.20**0.51**0.040.010.47**
Negative affect28.468.370.50**−0.12*0.01−0.19**−0.30**
Neuroticism22.255.551.00−0.21**−0.06−0.30**−0.31**
Extraversion28.465.921.000.140.24**0.46**
Openness to experience24.815.131.000.10*0.06
Agreeableness28.004.781.000.19**
Conscientiousness33.786.191.00

To examine the variance in SWB accounted for by the Big Five personality traits and to find out the important predictor for each of the three indices of SWB (life satisfaction, positive affect and negative affect), a stepwise backward regression analysis was performed. The data were tested for normality and linearity prior to conducting a regression analysis.

As shown in Tables 2-4, the Big Five traits accounted for 17% of the variance in life satisfaction, 35% variance in positive affect and 28% variance in negative affect. Table 2 indicates that conscientiousness (β = .25) and extraversion (β = .20) predicted life satisfaction. Regression analysis revealed that the two traits accounted for 16% of the variance in life satisfaction. Conscientiousness was found to be the most significant predictor of life satisfaction (β = .36) explaining 13% of the variance in life satisfaction. The remaining 3% of the variance in life satisfaction was accounted for by extraversion.

Table 2. Stepwise backward multiple regression analysis for Big Five traits and satisfaction with life
StepsVariablesβtProb > tRR2F
  1. *p < .05, **p < .01.

FirstNeuroticism−.09−1.28.19.42.17 7.71**
 Extraversion.202.56**.01   
 Openness to experience−.08−1.20.23   
 Agreeableness−.02−0.30.69   
 Conscientiousness.253.23**.00   
SecondNeuroticism−.08−1.23.21.42.17 9.65**
 Extraversion.192.54**.01   
 Openness to experience−.08−1.23.22   
 Conscientiousness.253.23**.00   
ThirdNeuroticism−.08−1.18.23.41.1712.32**
 Extraversion.182.40**.01   
 Conscientiousness.253.24**.00   
FourthExtraversion.192.51**.01.40.1617.74**
 Conscientiousness.273.64**.00   
LastConscientiousness.365.32**.00.36.1328.34**
Table 3. Stepwise backward multiple regression analysis for Big Five traits and positive affect
StepsVariablesβtProb > tRR2F
  1. *p < .05, **p < .01.

FirstNeuroticism−.07−1.13.25.59.3519.57**
 Extraversion.41**5.94**.00   
 Openness to experience−.02−0.45.64   
 Agreeableness−.17−2.63**.00   
 Conscientiousness.284.03**.00   
SecondNeuroticism−.07−1.12.26.59.3524.52**
 Extraversion.405.94**.00   
 Agreeableness−.17−2.67**.00   
 Conscientiousness.284.05**.00   
ThirdExtraversion.415.99**.00.59.3432.23**
 Agreeableness−.15−2.46**.01   
 Conscientiousness.304.42**.00   
FourthExtraversion.385.55**.00.57.3244.06**
 Conscientiousness.284.16**.00   
LastExtraversion.518.06**.00.51.2628.34**
Table 4. Stepwise backward multiple regression analysis for Big Five traits and negative affect
StepsVariablesβtProb > tRR2F
  1. *p < .05, **p < .01.

FirstNeuroticism.446.46**.00.53.2814.21**
 Extraversion.071.01.32   
 Openness to experience.030.55.57   
 Agreeableness−.04−0.67.50   
 Conscientiousness−.19−2.64**.00   
SecondNeuroticism.446.46**.00.53.2817.76**
 Extraversion.071.09.27   
 Agreeableness−.04−0.64.52   
 Conscientiousness−.19−2.65**.00   
ThirdNeuroticism.456.87**.00.53.2823.62**
 Extraversion.070.99.31   
 Conscientiousness.19−2.68**.00   
FourthNeuroticism.456.80**.00.52.2734.93**
 Conscientiousness−.16−2.49**.01   
LastNeuroticism.507.86**.00.50.2561.89**

Extraversion, conscientiousness and agreeableness were found to be predicting positive affect (Table 3). Extraversion was found to be the strongest predictor of positive affect (β = .51) explaining nearly 26% of the variance. Conscientiousness and agreeableness explained 6% and 2% of the variance in positive affect, respectively. Neuroticism (β = .45) and conscientiousness (β = .16) emerged as the significant predictors of negative affect. As indicated in Table 4, neuroticism was the most powerful predictor of negative affect and accounted for nearly 25% of the variance in negative affect (β = .50). Conscientiousness explained 2% of the variance in negative affect. Thus the results show that three different Big Five personality traits appear to be important in predicting the indices of SWB in Indian adults. Conscientiousness emerged as an important predictor of life satisfaction (cognitive component of SWB). Extraversion and neuroticism were significant predictors of affective component of SWB; namely positive affect and negative affect, respectively. Interestingly, conscientiousness appears to be the common personality trait influencing the three indices of SWB in Indian adults.

DISCUSSION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. METHOD
  4. RESULTS
  5. DISCUSSION
  6. REFERENCES

Big Five Traits and SWB in the Indian context

The study indicates that personality is an important correlate of SWB, especially the affective component. Among the Big Five personality traits, neuroticism and extraversion were important predictors of negative affect and positive affect, respectively. These findings are consistent with the earlier research which also indicates that extraverts are temperamentally happier than introverts, and neurotic individuals report being less happy (DeNeve & Cooper, 1998; McCrae & Costa, 1991).

Conscientiousness predicted all dimensions of SWB, particularly satisfaction with life, as observed in few earlier studies (DeNeve & Cooper, 1998; Hayes & Joseph, 2003). This finding is contrary to the earlier research which indicated that extraversion and neuroticism were important predictors of life satisfaction. Taking into consideration the demographic characteristics of the sample for this study, it is not surprising to get such results. The trait conscientiousness is characterised as being more responsible, focused, determined and goal oriented. According to the instrumental causal path model proposed by McCrae and Costa (1991), these characteristics are helpful in facilitating more positive experiences for young adults who are in the stage of establishing their career identity and fulfilling family responsibilities, thereby increasing life satisfaction. Hence in this sample, conscientiousness appears to be an important predictor of life satisfaction.

This study also suggests that agreeableness trait with an interpersonal/social dimension and openness to experience does not appear to add to SWB. This finding is consistent with the earlier findings (DeNeve & Cooper, 1998; Diener et al., 1992). However, it contradicts the hypothesis of McCrae and Costa (1991) about openness as a characteristic that should lead the person to experience both positive and negative affect. The reasons for such a finding could be found in the Indian culture. The characteristic feature of Indian culture is collectivism and for collectivists, conformity to cultural norms is more significant than self-pleasure and influences one's life satisfaction judgements (Suh, Diener, Oishi, & Triandis, 1998). The characteristics of openness to experience such as creativity, independence of judgement and freedom appear to be contrary to Indian sociocultural values. Hence, such a trait is irrelevant to SWB in the Indian culture. Thus based on this finding, it can be hypothesised that openness to experience is a culture-specific trait influencing SWB.

Implications and Conclusions

Thus, the results of the study indicate that life satisfaction, positive affect and negative affect appear to be influenced by distinct personality factors. It is possible to observe a clear and distinctive pattern of correlations between Big Five personality traits and each SWB component: neuroticism strongly predicted negative affect, extraversion predicted positive affect and conscientiousness was strongly associated with life satisfaction. There are some major implications of this study. It stresses the need for more intensive research of SWB and personality in Asian countries. The research indicates that the dynamics of personality and SWB can be complex for varied age groups and cultures. This work raises doubts about the dimension of neuroticism and extraversion being important predictors of cognitive component of SWB. The relationship between openness to experience and SWB also needs to be investigated extensively across various cultures.

In conclusion, personality does appear to be one of the important predictor of SWB in India. Although the results are promising, the study had certain limitations. Correlation analysis and self-report measures have their own inherent weaknesses. Another limitation was the cross-sectional design used in the study. Despite these limitations, this research work can be considered as a starting point for more methodologically detailed studies employing heterogeneous samples.

REFERENCES

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. METHOD
  4. RESULTS
  5. DISCUSSION
  6. REFERENCES