Meaning in life can be understood as how much people experience life meaning (i.e., presence of meaning, POM) and how intensely they seek life meaning (i.e., search for meaning, SFM). Previous research has related POM and SFM to the subjective well-being (SWB) of individuals, but the findings are inconsistent. This meta-analysis investigates the overall relationship between POM/SFM and SWB by examining previous studies that have used Steger et al.’s (J Couns Psychol 53:80–93, 2006. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0126.96.36.199) Meaning in Life Questionnaire to assess POM and SFM. Results of 147 studies, reporting 726 effect sizes (N = 92,169), suggest the effect size for the “POM–SWB” relationship is close to medium (ESz = .418, p < .001, 95% CI [.390, .446]). The effect is larger in life satisfaction and cross-sectional studies. The effect size for the “SFM–SWB” association is small (ESz = − .121, p < .001, 95% CI [− .155,− .087]), with the effect being larger for negative affect, cross-sectional studies, and older participants. Interestingly, SFM is related to more SWB in participants from countries that are more collectivistic. This study shows a robust link between presence of life meaning and greater SWB, and that while search for life meaning may be adverse to SWB, the effect is small and conditional.
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The funding was provided by MOE (Ministry of Education in China) Project of Humanities and Social Sciences (Grant No. 17YJCZH040), National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 31800938), Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong Province (Grant No. 2018A030313406) and Guangzhou University’s training program for excellent new-recruited doctors (Grant No. YB201707)
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Li, JB., Dou, K. & Liang, Y. The Relationship Between Presence of Meaning, Search for Meaning, and Subjective Well-Being: A Three-Level Meta-Analysis Based on the Meaning in Life Questionnaire. J Happiness Stud 22, 467–489 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-020-00230-y
- Meaning in life
- Life satisfaction, positive affect
- Negative affect
- Domain-specific satisfaction