Temporary and long-term consequences of bereavement on happiness

J.A. Moor, P.M. de Graaf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)
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In this article, we examine the temporary and long-term consequences of the death of a parent or child on happiness. According to set-point theory external conditions are expected to only have a short-term or limited influence on happiness. This directly contradicts the basic assumption of affective theories on happiness, which states that major life-events have a lasting influence on well-being. Moreover, we test whether the association between bereavement and happiness is equally strong across the life course. To test our hypotheses we make use of the fourth wave of the European Values Study. Our research findings demonstrate that people who lost their father, mother or child are more likely to feel unhappy than people without this experience. Ten years after the death of a parent or child we still find a significant difference in happiness between people who have and have not experienced this loss. The assumption of set-point theory, that major life evens only have a temporary impact on SWB, is not supported by our data. Moreover, the association between bereavement and SWB strongly differs across the life-course. We might even conclude that the age at which the loss occurred is more decisive for the strength of the association between bereavement and SWB than the duration of the loss.
Keywords: Subjective well-being, Happiness, Bereavement, Death of parent, Death of child, Duration of loss
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)913-936
JournalJournal of Happiness Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016


  • Subjective well-being
  • Happiness
  • Bereavement
  • Death of parent
  • Death of child
  • Duration of loss


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