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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2009 Aug;97(2):363-81. doi: 10.1037/a0015809.

Does it really feel the same? Changes in life satisfaction following repeated life events.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin, Berlin, Germany. maike.luhmann@fu-berlin.de


Unemployment, divorce, and marriage are common life events for most people in Western societies. In a longitudinal study, the authors investigated how these life events affect life satisfaction when they occur repeatedly. Data came from the German Socio-Economic Panel, a large-scale representative panel study, and were analyzed using multilevel modeling. Results showed that, in general, life satisfaction decreases with repeated unemployment (sensitization). For repeated divorces, life satisfaction is higher at the second divorce than it had been at the first divorce (adaptation). Finally, life satisfaction is similar at repeated marriages. Neuroticism, extraversion, and gender accounted for interindividual differences in changes in life satisfaction. For instance, the general sensitization pattern associated with repeated unemployment was less pronounced for women. The authors also found main effects of age and the duration of the first event on general differences in life satisfaction. Finally, those with repeated events generally report lower life satisfaction than those with only one occasion of these events, even before the first event actually occurred. Findings show that repeated events can have very different effects on life satisfaction that depend on the nature of the event.

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