Values and Well-Being in Context:
An analysis of country and group influences
Sortheix Florencia Maria
Does having certain values enhance your well-being? Or does the relationship between values and well-being depend on the country where you live and your social network? This doctoral thesis examines these questions in four contexts: across 40,000 citizens in 25 European countries in 2006, between six hundred Argentine, Bulgarian and Finnish university students, in a Finnish rural community in 1993 and 2007, and a representative sample of six hundred Finnish young adults. Personal values represent what is desirable and most important in our lives and serve as guidelines, or principles in life. Subjective well-being concerns satisfaction with one’s life and the presence of pleasant rather than unpleasant emotions. The thesis results show that different values are related to well-being in different countries. In poorer countries of Europe, such as Bulgaria, individuals who value achievement are more satisfied. This is not case in wealthier countries, such as Finland, where those who value universalism (e.g., social justice, protection of environment, equality) are more satisfied. The results also show universal positive motivations for well-being: in all countries valuing benevolence (e.g., caring for the well-being of close others) and hedonism (e.g., enjoying life) is related to higher well-being, whereas security (e.g., personal and national security) and power (e.g., wealth, dominance) are associated with lower well-being. Within the university context, business and education students who have a value profile similar to other students have higher well-being. These findings were mirrored in the community sample, as people whose values were similar to the values of other members of their community had fewer psychological stress symptoms. In young adulthood, results show that intrinsically rewarding career values (e.g., interesting work, learning new things) are positively related to later work engagement, but extrinsically motivated career values (e.g., good pay) are unrelated. Further, perceived personorganization value congruence is the strongest predictor of work engagement. In sum, this doctoral thesis demonstrates that the relationship between values and well-being is dependent on the broader social context in which individuals find themselves. Specifically, the relationship between individuals’ values and wellbeing is influenced by country-level characteristics, by the social groups to which they belong, as well as by organizational and developmental situations.