The Impact of Subjective Well-being on Mortality: A Meta-Analysis of Longitudinal Studies in the General Population

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Abstract

Objective

The aims of the study were to assess whether subjective well-being is a protective factor for mortality in the general population and to analyze the differential impact of evaluative, experienced, and eudaimonic well-being.

Methods

Systematic review of articles in the PsycINFO, Web of Science, and PubMed databases. Data on the studies' characteristics, quality, and the effects of variables were extracted. A meta-analysis was conducted on the studies included in the systematic review.

Results

A total of 62 articles that investigated mortality in general populations, involving 1,259,949 participants, were found, and added to those considered in a previously published review (n = 14). The meta-analysis showed that subjective well-being was a protective factor for mortality (pooled hazard ratio = 0.920; 95% confidence interval = 0.905–0.934). Although the impact of subjective well-being on survival was significant in both men and women, it was slightly more protective in men. The three aspects of subjective well-being were significant protective factors for mortality. The high level of heterogeneity and the evidences of publication bias may reduce the generalizability of these findings.

Conclusions

Our results suggest that subjective well-being is associated with a decreased risk of mortality. Longitudinal studies examining changing levels of well-being and their relationship to longevity would be required to establish a cause–effect relationship. Establishing such a causal relationship would strengthen the case for policy interventions to improve the population subjective well-being to produce longevity gains combined with optimizing quality of life.

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