When is the Search for Meaning Related to Life Satisfaction?


* Christopher Peterson, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, 530 Church Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1043, USA. Email: chrispet@umich.edu or Nansook Park, Email: nspark@umich.edu


Life meaning is important for psychological and physical health and well-being. Researchers have only recently looked at the presence of life meaning and the search for life meaning as separate constructs. In the current study, 731 adult respondents from the United States completed the Meaning in Life Questionnaire, which separately assesses the presence of meaning and the search for meaning, and measures of well-being. Presence and search for life meaning showed different relationships with well-being. Consistent with past research, the presence of meaning was positively associated with life satisfaction, happiness, and positive affect and negatively associated with depression and negative affect, whereas the search for meaning overall had the opposite pattern of correlates. However, the search for meaning was positively associated with well-being—greater life satisfaction, more happiness, and less depression—among those who already had substantial meaning in their life. The search for meaning is not only morally worthy but as it succeeds, eventually satisfying. Implications of these results for interventions to promote mental health and well-being are discussed.