Unemployment Alters the set point for Life Satisfaction
Set-point theories, individuals reacted strongly to unemployment and then shifted back toward their baseline levels of life satisfaction, individuals did not completely return to their former levels of satisfaction, even after they became reemployed. Furthermore, contrary to expectations from adaptation theories, people who had experienced unemployment in the past did not react any less negatively to a new round of unemployment than did people who had not been previously unemployed. Although life satisfaction is moderately stable over time, life events can have a strong influence on long-term levels of subjective well-being.
Subjective well-being (SWB) researchers examine the causes and correlates of life satisfaction, positive affect, and negative affect, these are moderately stable and changed only in important life events (health, income and beauty) and lasting below three months. Furthermore, personality variables seem to play a strong role in determining individuals’ levels of SWB and about 80% of the variance in long-term stable levels of SWB could be attributed to inborn temperament.
Most studies that test the set-point theory examine reactions to life events using one of two research designs. Cross-sectional studies examine the impact of life events by comparing the SWB of people who have experienced an event with the SWB of those who have not. Post-event longitudinal studies examine the course of adaptation using a longitudinal design that begins shortly after an event has occurred. Unfortunately, neither of these designs is ideal because pre-event levels of SWB are not known and many events do not occur randomly, differences in happiness might precede the experience of events. For example, longitudinal studies have shown that happiness prospectively predicts higher income levels and the experience of various positive life events. So, differences in happiness might precede events or even cause events to occur.
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Existing studies focus on groups rather than individuals and their characteristics and considered as incomplete adaption. In prospective longitudinal studies of life events, researchers often compare average levels of SWB before and after an event. If same, adaption occurred, average are stable and instability may be measured after it. Therefore for good test of Set Point Theory researcher should use longitudinal studies for individual and group. Cross sectional studies shows that unemployed are less satisfied than employed and who faced unemployment in the past are less satisfied than who did not face it. If set-point theory is correct, individuals should initially react to unemployment, but then return to their baseline levels after a year or two. In contrast, if unemployment alters the set point for life satisfaction, then people will not fully adapt to the unemployment event, even years after they become reemployed.