Is Happiness Good for Your Personality? Concurrent and Prospective Relations of the Big Five With Subjective Well-Being


  • The data analyzed in this research were made available by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research. However, the findings and views reported in this article are those of the author and should not be attributed to the Melbourne Institute. The author thanks Jule Specht for her input about the latent growth and autoregressive models, and thanks Anna Kronauer and Josephine Liang for their research assistance. This research was supported in part by a faculty research grant from Colby College.


The present research examined longitudinal relations of the Big Five personality traits with three core aspects of subjective well-being: life satisfaction, positive affect, and negative affect. Latent growth models and autoregressive models were used to analyze data from a large, nationally representative sample of 16,367 Australian residents. Concurrent and change correlations indicated that higher levels of subjective well-being were associated with higher levels of Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness, and with lower levels of Neuroticism. Moreover, personality traits prospectively predicted change in well-being, and well-being levels prospectively predicted personality change. Specifically, prospective trait effects indicated that individuals who were initially extraverted, agreeable, conscientious, and emotionally stable subsequently increased in well-being. Prospective well-being effects indicated that individuals with high initial levels of well-being subsequently became more agreeable, conscientious, emotionally stable, and introverted. These findings challenge the common assumption that associations of personality traits with subjective well-being are entirely, or almost entirely, due to trait influences on well-being. They support the alternative hypothesis that personality traits and well-being aspects reciprocally influence each other over time.