Self-employment and eudaimonic well-being: Energized by meaning, enabled by societal legitimacy

Ute Stephan*, Susana Tavares, Helena Carvalho, Joaquim Ramalho, Susana Santos, Marc van Veldhoven

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


This study investigates why and where self-employment is related to higher levels of eudaimonic well-being. We focus on meaningfulness as an important eudaimonic process and subjective vi- tality as a eudaimonic well-being outcome that is central to entrepreneurs' proactivity. Building on self-determination theory, we posit that self-employment, relative to wage-employment, is a more self-determined and volitional career choice, which enhances the experience of mean- ingfulness at work and perceptions of work autonomy. In a multi-level study of 22,002 in- dividuals and 16 European countries, meaningfulness at work mediates the relationship between self-employment and subjective vitality and explains this relationship better than work au- tonomy. We identify moderating effects of context: the societal legitimacy of entrepreneurship in a country affects the choice set of alternative career options that individuals can consider and thus shapes the experience of meaningfulness at work and work autonomy, and thereby in- directly subjective vitality. These findings expand our understanding of eudaimonic well-being, entrepreneurs' work, and the role of context in entrepreneurship and well-being research. They complement existing research on hedonic well-being of entrepreneurs and extend the scarce literature on their eudaimonic well-being.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106047
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Business Venturing
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Autonomy
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Eudaimonic well-being
  • Meaningfulness at work
  • Self-employment
  • Vitality
  • Well-being

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