Life events such as marriage, divorce, having a baby and finding or losing a job can affect people's subjective well-being, according to Zudina's paper "What lies behind 'average' self-assessment: Trajectories of social well-being in Russia in 2000-2014."*
Entering an unregistered or official marriage can influence one's social well-being (i.e. the subjective assessment of one’s position in society and overall life satisfaction). People with low self-esteem tend to feel better about themselves, while those assessing their social status as high rarely experience any changes in self-perception after marriage.
Many women associate marriage with economic support and financial stability, while men often see it as achieving a certain "stage in life associated with responsibility and maturity." Thus, married women tend to have a better assessment of their financial situation while married men feel more respected by others.
Men's self-esteem and reported life satisfaction often improve with the birth of a child, while most women are less likely to notice any changes, being overly involved in "preparing to welcome a new family member."
The impact of events such as marriage, divorce and childbirth on self-esteem is usually higher for people who feel less fortunate or successful. According to the study's author, these people may experience fewer opportunities for self-esteem, such as career advancement, higher income, etc., and "therefore, they tend to give more weight to changes in their personal lives."
Generally, average reported rates of social wellbeing have been relatively low with little change even for wealthier Russians over the past fifteen years.
According to the HSE's Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey (RLMS), respondents' self-assessment of their financial situation did not exceed 4.1 points on a nine-point scale, the maximum life satisfaction score stood at 3.3 on a five-point scale,
and only self-esteem was relatively higher at 6.5 on a nine-point scale. Zudina suggests that perhaps, "the last thing people are prepared to give up is self-esteem. No matter how poor a person feels, they see themselves as respected by others."
"Until recently, we were not able to look behind these average scores to see any 'undercurrents' which may be part of them," notes Zudina. This new study has revealed that these averages cannot serve as a reliable indicator of social wellbeing. People's self-perception is not set in stone. For many survey participants, the way they see themselves changes from year to year due to a variety of circumstances: according to the author, the so-called mobile trajectories of social wellbeing (i.e. positive or negative changes) are characteristic of approximately half of all Russians.*The study uses data from the RLMS-HSE for 2000-2014. The sample size for most of the survey period was approximately 4 million households, increased by 1.5 in 2010.