A day reconstruction study of happiness

Wido G. M. Oerlemans, Arnold B. Bakker, and Ruut Veenhoven
In: Journal of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences (2011) doi:10.1093/geronb/gbr040

Objectives: The main aim of this study was to examine the roles of physical passivity and extraversion in the relationship between daily engagement in activities and daily happiness among older adults.

Method: A day reconstruction method was used to accurately examine day-to-day activities and happiness. In total, 438 participants completed a monthly electronic diary survey over a 2-year period, generating 79,181 reported activities and momentary happiness scores.

Results: The results show that happiness increases when older adults combine effortful social, physical, cognitive, and household activities with restful activities. Furthermore, participation in social activities mediated the direct relationship between extraversion and happiness. Also, individuals who score high on extraversion derive greater happiness from social activities compared with their low-extravert counterparts.

Conclusions: The study extends activity theory by demonstrating that combining effortful activities with restful activities leads to greater happiness among older adults. Also, personality traits such as extraversion play a decisive role in the kind of activities that contribute most to daily happiness.

Key Words: Activities—Aging—Day reconstruction—Extraversion—Happiness—Neuroticism.

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