PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTORS IN LIFE SATISFACTION .pdf
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Psychological Factors Influencing Life Satisfaction of Undergraduates in Ekiti
State University, Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State, Nigeria
Bukunmi. O. Adewumi, Bsc.
Faculty of Social Sciences, Ekiti State University
Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State, Nigeria
This study was designed to assess the psychological factors influencing life satisfaction of
undergraduates. The instruments used were, Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), Wong and Law Emotional
Intelligence Scale (WLEIS), Rosenberge Self-esteem Scale (RSS), and Satisfaction With Life Scale
(SWLS). A total number of 200 participants were randomly selected across various faculties in Ekiti
State University. Four hypotheses were tested using Independent t-test to find the effects of perceived
stress on life satisfaction, emotional intelligence on life satisfaction, self-esteem on life satisfaction
and Multiple regression was used to find the joint and individual influences of perceived stress,
emotional intelligence and self-esteem on life satisfaction of undergraduates. The results show that
there is no significant influence of perceived stress on life satisfaction (t (75) = 1.23, p = .22, 95% CI
[-1.14, 4.83), there is a significant influence of emotional intelligence on life satisfaction (t (68) = 2.20, p = .03, 95% CI [-6.82, -.33], d = -.53) there is no significant influence of self-esteem on life
satisfaction (t (51) = -1.31, p = .20, 95% CI [-5.28, 1.11), and there is no significant joint influence of
perceived stress, emotional intelligence and self-esteem on life satisfaction (F (3,187) = 1.79, p = .15,
R2 = .03). Additionally, perceived stress (β = .07, p = .33), emotional intelligence (β = .14, p = 054)
and self-esteem (β = .02, p = .83) did not have independent influences on life satisfaction.
Implications of the present findings for future research are discussed, as well as potential
interventions for improving life satisfaction.
Life satisfaction is one among a range of concepts that is assumed to reflect the conditions of „a
good life‟. To be satisfied with life generally would mean that whatever may interfere with pleasure,
good quality of life and psychological wellbeing has being reduced to its barest minimum.
Also, that human beings are satisfied with life does not necessarily mean that they are at full extent
satisfied since by nature; human beings are generally „wanting‟ beings whose need can never be 100
percent met in terms of whatever necessities of life could enhance their live from food to luxuries and
sometimes overall psychological wellbeing and happiness. Diener defined life satisfaction as “a
cognitive judgmental global evaluation of one‟s life. It may be influenced by affect but is not itself a
direct measure of emotion” (Diener, 1984). The definition highlights the distinction between the subcategories of subjective well-being; the evaluation of life satisfaction involves a judgmental process
that differs from that involved when reporting affect as it requires a conscious, cognitive assessment
of life circumstances and a comparison of these to a subjectively set standard (Pavot & Diener, 1993).
A greater amount of discrepancy between the set standard and one‟s actual standing means less
To say that one is satisfied with life would generate a lot of questions and arguments such as, "is it
well with everybody?" Are humans truly satisfied? What percentage of satisfaction counts as real and
It is interesting to consider how the issue of life satisfaction is influenced by and/or relate to
myriads of psychological factors with a focus on perceived stress, emotional intelligence and selfesteem of university undergraduate students.
Statement of problem
The focus of the present research work is on psychological factors influencing life satisfaction.
Since there are numerous psychological factors which may influence life satisfaction, it makes sense
to reduce these factors to the main focus on some predictor variables viz: perceived stress, emotional
intelligence, and self-esteem.
Although as we noticed the research literature is quite clear about the relationship between
Emotional Intelligence (EI) and life satisfaction, little is yet known about the processes that sustain
this relationship. What potential mediating or moderating variables can account for the association
between trait EI and life satisfaction? One recent review (Zeidner, Matthews, Roberts, 2012) notes a
number of mediating factors in the EI–socio-emotional well-being relationship. In respect to their
model, self-esteem might be hypothesized to mediate the association between EI and life satisfaction.
Self-esteem refers to an individual‟s stable sense of personal worth or worthiness (Rosenberg, 1965).
On the one hand, self-esteem has been found to be associated with life satisfaction (Westaway,
Martiz, Golele, 2001; Rey et al. 2011; Yamawaki, Peterson, Nelson, Omori, 2011; Kong, Zhao, You,
2012). On the other hand, research has indicated that higher EI is associated with high self-esteem
(Schutte, Malouff, Simunek, McKenley, Hollander, 2002; Dong, Urista, Gundrum, 2008; Kong et al,
2012). Thus, trait EI is likely to be associated with greater life satisfaction by means of the greater
sense of self-esteem.
Also, of much importance is the exploration of research questions in order to provide answers to
them at the end of this research after hypotheses have been tested. The research questions related to
this present study are;
Does perceived stress influence the rate at which an individual is satisfied with life? Does emotional
intelligence influence life satisfaction? Does self-esteem have any influence on life satisfaction? Are
there some joint influences of perceived stress, emotional intelligence and self-esteem on life
satisfaction? Are there some independent influences of perceived stress, emotional intelligence and
self-esteem on life satisfaction?
Purpose of the Study
The primary objective of this study is summarized. Our aims and objective is to verify some
psychological predictors of life satisfaction (among undergraduates). Specifically, this study
To investigate if there will be a significant influence of perceived stress on life satisfaction.
To investigate if there will be a significant influence of emotional intelligence on life
To find out whether there will be a significant influence of self-esteem on life satisfaction.
To investigate if there will be a significant joint influence of perceived stress, emotional
intelligence and self-esteem on life satisfaction.
Relevance of the study
Considering previous studies, analyzing the complex predictors of life satisfaction such as;
perceived stress, emotional intelligence, and self-esteem, it is important to note the limitations in the
Emotional Intelligence literature in that the majority of the studies were conducted within different
Western or Asian countries. This study will therefore contribute to such existing publications and as
such, can arouse further curiosity and investigation among researchers of the same phenomena. Also,
testing these predictions in Nigerian culture would add meaningful evidence for practice and reduce
Moreover, at the end of this study, one would have the knowledge of the various psychological
factors predicting life satisfaction as stated in this study, to check the psychological effects meted on
an individual‟s (student‟s) state of happiness or satisfaction with life, and where necessary, sensitize
clinicians and/or counseling psychologists [especially in the academic settings] as to help break the
barriers that hamper life satisfaction in the society at large.
Scope of the Study
This research work investigates the psychological factors: [perceived stress, emotional
intelligence, and self-esteem] influencing life satisfaction among undergraduates. The research takes
the definition of each element [perceived stress, emotional intelligence, self-esteem, and life
satisfaction] into consideration, as well as examining existing publications and theories on the subject
The geographical area used in this research is Ekiti State University (EKSU), Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti
state, Nigeria. The participants include equal number of both males and females as to eliminate any
form of representative bias in the data collection process.
Humanistic Theory of Life Satisfaction
Humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow (1954), believed that striving for growth is an
importance essence of an individual‟s life. He theorized the hierarchy of needs and emphasized that
the satisfaction of needs occurs on a pyramidal scale so that needs at the bottom of the pyramid are
the most immediate needs to be attended to since they are survival needs, as the pyramid approaches
its apex, there are more long term needs which relates to long term goal and fulfillment generally
referred to as self-actualization. This theory therefore suggests the importance of high achievement
which relates to the very apex of the pyramid of needs.
Psychosocial Theory of Life Satisfaction
The psychosocial explanation of life satisfaction could be derived most in part from the last stage
of Erickson‟s (1950) theory. This stage is called „Integrity versus Despair‟.
Integrity versus Despair
Integrity in the later years of life implies acceptance of a life that was well-lived. It does not mean
that life is over, for these can often be very productive years. But by this age, a person begins to take
a reflective and evaluative look back at his or her life. A person may ask questions like “Was my life
fulfilling?” or “What was I able to accomplish?”
Life is full of choices and there are always many roads that were not taken by all of us. Everyone
makes mistakes, including some major or even tragic ones. To be fulfilled does not mean that one has
led a perfect life! But if one has managed life reasonably well and come to grips with one‟s
shortcomings, practiced meaningful self-forgiveness where called for, and taken into account both
positive and negative factors from one‟s past, then a positive sense of integrity ensues. Despair,
however, implies a lack of further hope. Despair can result from unfulfilled potential or a feeling that
one has wasted one‟s life, without hope for personal redemption.
Despair is often disguised by an outward attitude of contempt toward others. Such contempt,
according to Erikson, really reflects contempt for the self, projected outward. After a lifetime of
living and learning, Erikson stated that wisdom is the basic strength associated with later years, based
on the well-lived life. Disdain is the core pathology of this stage.
Neurobiological explanation of emotional intelligence
One question that may come to mind considering the neurobiology of life satisfaction and
emotional intelligence is related to whether there are evidences which truly suggest the basic
neurobiological mechanisms that have direct cause-effect relationships with a person‟s satisfaction
with life. Does it make sense to establish any connection between the brain and life satisfaction? To
provide an answer to this question, how the brain work in accordance with stimuli in the external
environment is important and admissible enough. Since emotions exhibited are largely due to the
perception of external stimuli (e.g. seeing a snake and feeling afraid), such emotion-arousing stimuli
further stimulate the emotion areas of the brain especially the limbic system (most notably, the
amygdala in terms of positive emotions such as love) and the basal ganglia (most notably, the
putamen in terms of negative emotions such as hatred and anger) by first ascending the neural
messages via the Ascending Reticular Activating System (ARAS) up to the limbic system, and
further, to the cerebrum where interpretation of the messages usually takes place as to give
meaningfulness to the experienced event, then we say, perception has taken place (Zekki and
Psychological Theory of Life Events
A model of stress
Progress in psychological concepts and theories has been shown in the presence of
psychological literature relating to the concept of life events and stress which was overshadowed
earlier by Selye‟s (1976) theory which dominated the entire stress scene in the fifties. It was perhaps
the appearances of Lazarus(1966) that marked the new dawn in stress research in relation of life
Three aspects of stress have been identified under the psychological theory. Firstly, those
individuals differ in their reaction to stress and life event. Secondly, stress is determined by
perception of the stressful situation rather than the stress itself. Finally, the extent of stress depends
partly on the capability of the individual to cope. Hence it can therefore be deduced that the necessary
and sufficient conditions for psychological stress in a cognitive appraisal of a demand capability in
balance. In contrast to Selye‟s psychological stress, the emphasis of psychological stress is on the
input side, especially the kind of situation and the interaction that evokes a stress state.
In contemporary research, Selye‟s adaptive reaction of the stress state which in the domain of
psychological stress has to a large extent been integrated with conditions essential for stress
activation in the domain of psychological stress, thus the two approaches are complimentary in
nature, psychological stress theory outlines conditions which determine the evocation of stress while
Selye‟s theory describe its form. However, these stressful conditions have a direct linkage with illness
so the attention of psychologist has also gone to study of life event such as acquisition of new job,
marriage, retirement, divorce of bereavement, change in residence, change in loving condition, legal
violation, death of a close friend, sex difficulties, its direct effect on illness. Hence victims of these
traumatic conditions suffered acute and adverse negative life dissatisfaction, which results to
experiences of depressive symptoms.
Series of researches have been carried out in the years to understand the psychological factors
influencing life satisfaction. Since there are numerous psychological factors that could influence life
satisfaction, it would make more sense to consider some of these factors with a focus on the influence
of perceived stress, emotional intelligence, and self-esteem on life satisfaction of undergraduates.
Life Satisfaction and Students’ Performance
Overall satisfaction with the school experience has been shown to be only weakly related to
student performance (Astin, 1993). Results from the national survey of students engagement (N=
158,00) and the college student experiences questionnaire (N=85,000), two comprehensive national
studies of undergraduate students, found modest correlation between GPA and university satisfaction.
Studies in management literature examining the relationship between satisfaction with the work
domain and job performance have yielded similar results. Most recently a meta- analysis by Judge,
Thoresen, Bono, and Patton (2001) found that job satisfaction and job performance are correlated, but
overall, the strength of the reported relationship has been disappointing, given the idea`s intuitive
Perceived Stress and University Students
The issue of stress among students in Nigerian tertiary institutions today is receiving increasing
attention. University students in Nigeria are daily stressed within their learning environments which
are still not optimally conducive for learning. Outside the learning environments, many of them still
have to face the challenges from their homes- parental pressures to succeed. Suffice it to say that the
amount of stress which a person can withstand is dependent on the individual level of tolerance
(Ellison, 1990). Some students can cope within certain stress levels while some others become
emotionally wrecked in the process.
Stress has been assumed as part of every student‟s daily life; the personal stress requirements and
the amount which a student can tolerate before he/she becomes distressed. This however varies with
the life situation and the age. As a university student, the greatest sources of events he/she
experiences as stressful are assumed likely to fall within some categories: relationships, academic and
social situations, environment and life style (Fremont, retrieved from www.utexas.edu), leaving home
or community daily, managing finances, living with roommates, juggling a job, going to classes and
having relationships. All these can contribute to the normal stress of being at the university. Within
the school also, it is not uncommon for students to feel overwhelmed and anxious about wasting time,
meeting high standards or being lonely. In addition, stress can also come from exciting or positive
events. It is not strange to say that even the process of falling in love, preparing to travel and study
abroad, or buying a new car can just be as stressful, less happy events can also be stressful.
Physiology of Stress: A Focus on Students
Stress is a common element in the life of every individual, regardless of race or cultural
background (Garret, 2001). Stress is a part of human nature. Weinberg and Gould (2003) defined
stress as a physical, mental or emotional tension. It can be caused by both good and bad experiences.
Stress is an ineffective and unhealthy reaction to change. Stress describes a force which affects
human beings physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually (Akinboye, Akinboye and
Adeyemo, 2002), it is the body‟s response to any undesirable demand. Stress describes physical
trauma, strenuous exercise, metabolic disturbances and anxiety, which challenges the body‟s
homeostasis (well-being). Stress describes the wear and tear that stressors cause in the human body
including the distortion of mental and behavioural patterns. Stress also describes how people react to
the demands placed on them to causing them worry and also incapacitating their ability to cope.
Stress describes the perturbation of the body‟s homeostasis generating biochemical parameters such
as ephinephrine and adrenal cortisols, physiological parameters such as elevated heart rate and blood
pressure, behaviuoral characteristics such as anxiety, depression, worry, fear, tension etc. (Akinboye,
et al, 2002).
David (2011) also emphasized that secondary school years should be experience but many demands
and rapid changes can make them one of the most stressful times of life. Students today face
increasing amounts of school work, a rapidly changing curriculum, assignment deadlines and
examinations. Students worry about selecting careers and involving in the careers, and they must
balance school work with sports, hobbies and social life.
According to Malik and Rehman (2012), high academic achievers are less vulnerable to stress.
Emotional Intelligence and University Students
Emotions, an integral and significant aspect of human nature and the motivation for behavior, has
been recognized by psychology scholars as being an advanced topic of great significance; Emotional
Intelligence is also a topic that has gained significant recognition from psychologists, scholars in
education, management, and health studies over the past decade. Emotional intelligence is concerned
with understanding oneself and others, relating to people, and adapting to and coping more
successfully in dealing with environmental demands (BarOn, 2002), and therefore, is an important
indicator of future success in many aspects of life, including academic performance, career
achievement (Saarni 1999; Goleman 1995; BarOn, 2002), and contributes to individual life
satisfaction (Law, Wong, & Song, 2004). Numerous studies have indicated that the ability to help
predict academic performance and future achievements and success has given rise to why EI is
critical for university students (Brackett, Mayer, and Warner, 2004; Bar-On, 1997; Parker,
Summerfeldt, Hogan, & Majes, 2004). In their research, Parker, Summerfeldt, Hogan, and Majes
(2004) conducted a study on 372 university students. They found that profound changes were
experienced during the period between senior high school or college and university because of the
influence of emotional intelligence and social abilities; a correlation was evident between these
emotional and social factors and university students‟ future achievements and performances.
Nowadays, university students tend to display characteristics such as low stress tolerance difficult to
adjust to changing situation, and poor emotional management skills; and they tend to evade reality.
The reason for such behaviors is that university students are experiencing the transitional phase
between adolescence and adulthood; the self-inflicted or external stimulants that they experience
cause changes in their intrinsic or extrinsic emotion and behavior. Since emotion is a part of human
life, emotion is undoubtedly one of the most critical factors that significantly influence university