Normative Life Satisfaction in Chinese Societies

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Abstract

Research over several decades about subjective life satisfaction has led to the conclusion that the majority of people seem to be satisfied with their lives when their social and physical needs are met. In empirical studies which have used self-report instruments, this trend is reflected in respondents' consistent preference for the positive end of scales. This led to the suggestion that there is a normative range for life satisfaction, which should hold true for general population data and, therefore, serve as a reference point, or a gold standard, for comparison (Cummins Social Indicators Research, 35, 179–200, 1995, Social Indicators Research, 43, 307–334, 1998). Subsequent research has shown that Western and non-Western samples generally conform to the normative range, but more data are needed from Chinese societies. In an attempt to remedy this situation, this paper investigates normative life satisfaction there. This paper reanalyses published and unpublished data from various Chinese societies (People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, and Taiwan) in order to confirm whether or not they lie within the normative range for non-Western countries. The results provide support for the relevance of Cummins's normative range in Chinese societies. That the normative range generalised to the present study is a very useful finding, as it supports its utility for Chinese samples, and adds support to a theoretical explanation – i.e. the Wellbeing Homeostatisis theory—in Chinese groups.

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