When is search for meaning in life beneficial for well‐being? A cross‐national study

Li Lin, Hoi‐Wing Chan
Published Online:
29 Jun 2020

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Previous research has found cross‐national variations in the association between search for meaning in life (SMIL) and well‐being (i.e. SMIL–WB link). This study extended and tested a “self‐improvement hypothesis” that accounts for such cross‐national variations based on an international database—the sixth wave of World Values Survey. SMIL represents a self‐improvement effort which is more demanded in contexts with stronger external constraints. Thus, we expected a stronger positive SMIL–WB link in such contexts. A series of multilevel analyses was used to verify this hypothesis. The results showed that the SMIL–WB link varied across different societies, with well‐being indexed by happiness, life satisfaction and subjective health. Moreover, external constraints from cultural, social‐institutional, economic and ecological contexts (collectivism, peace threats, economic scarcity and environmental threats) moderated the SMIL–WB links. We thus call for advancing SMIL theory by considering person–context interaction.

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