Assumption: It is generally assumed that having a satisfying job contributes significantly to one’s overall life satisfaction.
Fact: How job satisfaction contributes to life satisfaction varies across socio-demographic groups.
A HSE researcher has examined the impact of various factors on the link between job satisfaction and life satisfaction. Using data from 28,653 respondents to the European Values Study (EVS), Natalia Soboleva, senior research fellow of the Ronald F. Inglehart Laboratory for Comparative Social Research (LCSR), found the association between job satisfaction and life satisfaction to vary across sociodemographic characteristics, such as gender, age, education, marital status, religiosity, and type of employment. In particular, job satisfaction contributes more significantly to life satisfaction for men compared to women, being a parent does not seem to make a difference, while being married weakens the association between job satisfaction and life satisfaction. In addition to this, the impact of job satisfaction on life satisfaction is lower for religious individuals and for younger people. The paper is published in the International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy.
Numerous studies have confirmed that work is a critical factor for subjective wellbeing and life satisfaction. People spend a lot of time at work and often associate it with the meaningfulness of their life.
Three hypotheses have been argued to explain the link between job satisfaction and life satisfaction:
the spillover hypothesis;
the segmentation hypothesis; and
the compensation hypothesis.
According to the spillover hypothesis, a person's overall life attitudes and practices tend to spill over to their work life, and the other way around. Those in favour of the segmentation hypothesis deny any relationship whatsoever between job satisfaction and life satisfaction. Finally, the compensation hypothesis states that people compensate for job dissatisfaction by engaging in more rewarding activities in other areas of their life, and vice versa.
A meta-analysis has confirmed the spillover hypothesis, finding that individuals satisfied with their life in general are more likely to be satisfied with their job, and vice versa.
While the role of work in one’s overall life satisfaction varies for different groups of people, few studies have so far examined these differences. The LCSR researcher analysed the effects of socio-demographic characteristics, religiosity and socio-economic factors.
She also factored in one’s work values, both intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic values include finding one's work interesting, making an important contribution to society and enjoying autonomy, while extrinsic values focus on high pay, job security, career prospects, etc.
The study used data from the European Values Study ( EVS) for 2008-2009, limited to a sample of employed and self-employed respondents totalling 28,653 observations from 45 countries. The author notes that she uses the 2008-2009 EVS data, because the survey’s more recent 2017 wave does not include questions about job satisfaction. However, according to Soboleva, no significant changes in the impact of job satisfaction on overall life satisfaction for different groups are likely to have occurred during the period in question.
The dependent variable in the study is the respondents’ overall life satisfaction and the independent variable is job satisfaction. In both cases, a ten-point scale was used, with multilevel regression modelling as the main method of analysis.
The study has confirmed a strong positive impact of job satisfaction on life satisfaction; intrinsic work values have been found to increase life satisfaction, while extrinsic work values tend to have the opposite effect. These findings are consistent with those from earlier studies, according to Soboleva.
As for other factors, the association between job satisfaction and life satisfaction appears to be lower in women compared to men. Similarly, the link is weaker for married people compared to those who are single.
According to the researcher, these findings confirm the impact of social role differences between women and men, despite the general trend towards gender equality. For women, who often bear much of the burden of housework and child rearing, work outside of the home tends have relatively less significance in their life than for men.
Contrary to expectations, the relationship between job satisfaction and life satisfaction is the same for parents and non-parents. Soboleva suggests that further research is needed to examine whether the number and ages of children play a role.
It turns out that job satisfaction contributes much more to overall life satisfaction for the age groups of 30 to 49 and the over 50s. This finding, according to the author, reflects the fact that work is far from the main activity in many young people's lives.
The level of education also matters: the more higher it is, the greater the reported level of work and life satisfaction. One of the reasons may be that people who invest in their education tend to attach greater importance to their career as well.
Also contrary to expectations, no difference in the job satisfaction/life satisfaction corelation was found between respondents in part-time or full-time employment – perhaps because both terms reflect a range of work schedules. Self-employed respondents tend to show a stronger link between life and work satisfaction, perhaps because they are generally more involved in their work.
Religious respondents display a lower association between job satisfaction and life satisfaction; one can assume that the importance of faith in their life overshadows the role of work in their overall happiness.
According to Soboleva, the findings of this study can have practical value. Alongside overall life satisfaction, an employee's job satisfaction is an important factor in their productivity and, seen more broadly, contributes to overall economic advancement.
This study does not only confirm the role of job satisfaction in people's lives but shows how its significance can vary depending on age, gender, education and other factors. According to Soboleva, policymakers and employers should be aware of the critical importance of creating favourable working conditions for the entire workforce, not limited to vulnerable groups.
'In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, this may mean allowing greater flexibility in working hours and locations. Self-employed individuals for whom job satisfaction contributes even more to overall life satisfaction could also benefit from positive measures', Soboleva concludes.