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The well-being of playful adults: Adult playfulness, subjective well-being, physical well-being, and the pursuit of enjoyable activities


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It was hypothesized that playfulness in adults relates positively to different indicators of subjective but also physical well-being. A sample of 255 adults completed subjective measures of playfulness along with self-ratings for different facets of well-being and the endorsement to enjoyable activities. Adult playfulness demonstrated robust positive relations with life satisfaction and an inclination to enjoyable activities and an active way of life. There were also minor positive relations with physical fitness. Leading an active way of life partially mediated the relation between playfulness and life satisfaction. The study provides further evidence on the contribution of adult playfulness to different aspects of well-being.
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European Journal of
Humour Research 1(1) 84- 98
The well-being of playful adults:
Adult playfulness, subjective well-being,
physical well-being, and the pursuit of
enjoyable activities
René T. Proyer
University of Zurich, Switzerland
It was hypothesized that playfulness in adults relates positively to different indicators of
subjective but also physical well-being. A sample of 255 adults completed subjective
measures of playfulness along with self-ratings for different facets of well-being and the
endorsement to enjoyable activities. Adult playfulness demonstrated robust positive relations
with life satisfaction and an inclination to enjoyable activities and an active way of life. There
were also minor positive relations with physical fitness. Leading an active way of life
partially mediated the relation between playfulness and life satisfaction. The study provides
further evidence on the contribution of adult playfulness to different aspects of well-being.
Keywords adult playfulness, enjoyable activities, health behaviour, life satisfaction, physical
fitness, playfulness
According to Barnett (2007), playfulness is defined as “the predisposition to frame (or
reframe) a situation in such a way as to provide oneself (and possibly others) with
amusement, humour, and/or entertainment” (2007: 955; see also Barnett 1990, 1991ab, 2012).
She also lists a set of adjectives describing the nature of playfulness further. Some of these
descriptors (e.g., cheerful, happy, or outgoing) characterize greater levels of subjective well-
being, while others such as being active and dynamic point towards physical well-being and
activity. This has also been reflected in other studies on the structure of playfulness. For
example, Proyer (2012a) examined the dimensionality of playfulness in a lexical study based
on implicit linguistic and psychological theories (derived from a corpus analysis). He
identified seven basic factors; namely, (1) cheerful-engaged; (2) whimsical; (3) impulsive; (4)
intellectual-charming; (5) imaginative; (6) light-hearted; and (7) kind-loving. The open-
cheerful factor comprises contents reflecting subjective but also physical well-being (e.g.,
being cheerful, high levels of positive mood, or being energetic).
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The theoretical framework of this study is the health behaviour model (Kubzansky et al.
2009; Vollrath et al. 1999; Wiebe & Smith 1997). This model suggests that personality can
have an impact on the physical well-being of people via an effect on the compliance with
health-oriented behaviours (see Kubzansky et al. 2009; Wiebe & Smith 1997; Vollrath et al.
1999). Using this model, an impact of personality on health-promoting and damaging
activities but also, more generally speaking, on health-oriented behaviours has been
demonstrated. It is proposed that greater levels of playfulness can also have such effects. For
example, greater levels of energy, which have been identified as characteristics of playful
adults (e.g., Barnett 2007, 2011; Proyer 2012a) can facilitate physical activity. This, in turn, is
expected to have an impact on different facets of physical well-being.
The present study addresses various indicators of psychological but also self-assessed
physical well-being allowing for a better understanding of the contribution of playfulness to
these dimensions. Several aspects of well-being are being differentiated in this study.
Indicators for subjective well-being were (a) a general rating for the current psychological
status; and (b) life satisfaction as its cognitive component. Physical well-being was addressed
by (a) a general rating for the current health status; (b) specific health behaviours (e.g.,
pursuing an active way of life; hygiene, or eating behaviors); and (c) subjective ratings for
physical fitness (strength, cardio-respiratory fitness, flexibility, and coordination skills).
Hence, physical well-being in this study is operationalised as the pursuit of health-oriented
behaviours and greater levels of physical fitness (in self-ratings). Along with these variables,
the endorsement to enjoyable activities was tested as a further indicator of overall well-being.
A greater endorsement to enjoyable activities has been shown to have a positive impact on
physical well-being (see Pressman et al. 2009). It should be noted that enjoyable activities
should not be used synonymously with playful activities. Greater levels of activity and vitality
have been related to playfulness (Barnett, 2007; Proyer & Ruch 2011) but it is argued that not
each enjoyable activity must necessarily have a playful component and vice versa. Therefore,
it seems fruitful to study the overlap between the playful and enjoyable of activities.
As in Proyer and Ruch (2011) and Proyer (2012c), playfulness has been assessed via a
short instrument for overall playfulness (in the sense of an easy onset and high intensity of
playful experiences along with the frequent display of playful activities; Proyer 2012b) and by
means of Glynn and Webster’s Adult Playfulness Scale (1992; APS). The latter allows
differentiating five facets of playfulness (i.e., spontaneous, expressive, fun, creative, and
silly). These instruments enable the examination of global playfulness but also different
facets. This provides a differentiated picture of the nature of the relations.
Subjective well-being and playfulness.
Earlier studies have shown that playfulness in adults has robust relations with outcome
variables such as intrinsic motivation (e.g., Amabile et al. 1994), creativity and spontaneity
(e.g., Barnett 2007; Glynn & Webster 1992), positive attitudes towards the workplace or job
satisfaction (Yu et al. 2007), or academic achievement (Proyer 2011) to name but a few. In
Proyer (2012c), life-satisfaction correlated with r = .31 (p < .001) and r = .18 (p < .05) with
fun-oriented and creative variants of playfulness. Barnett (2007) identified “cheerful” and
“happy” as two components, which people relate to playfulness in adults. Furthermore,
playfulness has been associated with greater quality of life (Proyer & Ruch 2010), flow-
experiences (Csikszentmihalyi 1975), or the pleasurable and engaged life (Proyer 2012c). The
latter are two key components of Seligman’s (2002) authentic happiness theory describing
distinct yet not incongruent routes towards well-being; one of them being associated with
hedonism, the other one with flow-experiences. Proyer & Ruch (2011) studied playfulness in
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relation with the “good character;” i.e., strengths of character as morally positively valued
traits (Peterson & Seligman 2004). Findings suggested that playfulness relates to higher
intellectual (e.g., curiosity, creativity, or love of learning) and emotional strengths (e.g., zest,
hope, love, or social intelligence) but lower strengths of restraint (e.g., self-regulation,
persistence, perspective, or prudence). As expected, playfulness has been predicted best by
the strengths of humour but also by low prudence, greater appreciation of beauty and
excellence, creativity, and teamwork. Finally, Fredrickson (1998, 2001) argues that play and
playfulness in adults may facilitate the experience of positive emotions. In terms of her
broaden-and-built-theory of positive emotions, these cannot only broaden a person’s current
action-thought repertoire but also help building psychological resources.
In a study with adolescents (12 to 19 years), Staempfli (2007) found positive relations
between playfulness and psychological as well as physical health (self-ratings). Playful
adolescents engaged in higher levels of leisure activities and demonstrated greater leisure
satisfaction (which was related to psychological health). Playfulness correlated positively
with different coping styles (active, internal, withdrawal). Additionally, it was shown that
higher playful students endorsed leisure to seek companionship and enhance mood through
leisure (Qian & Yarnal 2011) and that playful people do not experience boredom in their
leisure time and are aware of opportunities of what to do in their leisure time (Barnett 2011).
Based on the literature reported, a positive relation between feeling psychologically well and
greater life-satisfaction and playfulness was expected.
Physical well-being and playfulness.
It was expected that playful adults perceive themselves as physically healthy (cf. Staempfli
2007). This seems to be further substantiated by Proyer (2012c), who found that playfulness
relates to the satisfaction of intrinsic life goals with health being one of them.
Beyond a general self-evaluation of the health status, the Questionnaire of Multiple
Health Behavior (Wiesmann et al. 2003) was used in this study for being able to comment on
different types of health behavior. This measure provides scores on the overall health
behavior and on six aspects of health-behaviors; i.e., an active way of life, compliance,
substance avoidance, security orientation, diet, and hygiene. Based on broader descriptions of
the playfulness trait (e.g., Barnett 1990, 1991ab, 2007; Glynn & Webster 1992; Lieberman
1977; Proyer 2012a) one might assume that greater playfulness relates to greater levels of
activity (e.g., exploratory behaviour, more frequent time spent in the nature, etc.). However,
there are also variants of playfulness for which negative relations were expected. The silly-
form of playfulness relates to low conscientiousness (Proyer 2012c), lower inclinations to
self-regulation (Proyer & Ruch 2011) and, presumably, even less careful behaviour in
general. Hence, health-related aspects such as the avoidance of potentially enjoyable but also
harmful substances (e.g., alcohol, nicotine), restrained eating behaviour, or displaying a
strong security orientation was expected to be negatively related with playfulness (see also
O’Connell et al. 2000).
It was further expected that playfulness also relates to greater levels of physical fitness.
In children, physical spontaneity (e.g., in the sense of coordinated movements) has been
identified as one of the core components of playfulness (e.g., Barnett 1991a; Lieberman 1977;
Singer et al. 1980). It has already been argued that play and playfulness can trigger positive
emotions; e.g., joy enhances the likelihood of playful behaviours to occur. According to
Fredrickson (1998, 2001) positive emotions can be helpful in facilitating physical resources
such as coordination, strength, or cardiovascular health. While greater playfulness was
expected to concur with indicators of physical fitness, these relations were expected to be
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numerically lower than those for subjective well-being.
Enjoyable activities and playfulness.
Manell (1984) argues that playful people enjoy leisure activities. This is also in line with
Barnett (2011), who found that playful adults were less prone to experiencing boredom in
their leisure time. In Proyer (2012c), playfulness was associated with the endorsement of
pleasurable (hedonistic) orientations. It was expected that playfulness correlates positively
with a greater propensity to enjoyable activities.
Enjoyable activities were assessed by means of the Pittsburgh Enjoyable Activities Test
(PEAT; Pressman et al. 2009). Research using the PEAT showed that the endorsement of
enjoyable activities relates to physiological parameters (such as lower blood pressure, total
cortisol) but also physical fitness (lower waist circumference, body mass index), the self-
perception of greater physical fitness, but also psychological variables such as lower
depression or negative affect (Pressman et al. 2009). Similar relations were expected for
playfulness (and its variants).
Aims of the present study.
The main aim of the present study was examining the relations between different facets of
playfulness in adults and various indicators of well-being and the propensity to enjoyable
The sample consisted of 255 adults between 18 and 67 years (M = 29.2, SD = 9.1). About two
thirds (n = 167) were women. More than half were in a partnership or being married (n = 133)
and n = 112 were single. More than one third held a degree from a university or a university
of applied sciences (n = 94).
The Short Measure of Adult Playfulness (SMAP; Proyer 2012b) is a five-item questionnaire
for the assessment of playfulness in adults in the sense of an easy onset and high intensity of
playful experiences along with the frequent display of playful activities. A sample item is I
am a playful person.” All items are positively keyed and answers are given on a 4-point scale
(1= “strongly disagree,” 4 = “strongly agree”). Proyer reports a one-dimensional solution for
the SMAP (in exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses) and high internal consistencies
(≥ .80 in different samples; it was .88 in this sample). There were positive relations in the
expected range with the need for play-scale (Jackson 1984), Glynn and Webster’s (1992,
1993) Adult Playfulness Scale, and a total score for Barnett’s (2007) descriptors for
playfulness. Support for the divergent validity was found in negative relations with the
seriousness scale of the State-Trait-Cheerfulness Inventory (Ruch et al. 1996). High and low
scorers in the SMAP differed in the expected way in ratings for approval and disapproval for
high and low structured workplaces and abstract vs. non-abstract pieces of art (Proyer 2012b).
Several further studies support the validity of the instrument (Proyer 2012c; Proyer & Ruch
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The Adult Playfulness Scale (APS; Glynn & Webster 1992, 1993) consists of 32
adjectives, of which twenty-five are being scored. It contains five scales; i.e., spontaneous
(e.g., spontaneous vs. disciplined, impulsive vs. diligent; = .77 in this sample), expressive
(e.g., bouncy vs. staid, open vs. reserved; = .74), fun (e.g., bright vs. dull, excitable vs.
serene; = .69), creative (e.g., imaginative vs. unimaginative, active vs. passive; = .70),
and silly (e.g., childlike vs. mature, whimsical vs. practical; = .69). Answers are given on a
7-point rating scale. Glynn and Webster (1992) report satisfying internal consistencies and
test-retest correlations, and a robust factor solution. The APS has been used widely in
research (e.g., Amabile et al. 1994; Bozionelos & Bozionelos 1999). As in Proyer (2011,
2012abc) and Proyer and Ruch (2011), the German version of the scale has been used.
The Pittsburgh Enjoyable Activities Test (PEAT; Pressman et al. 2009) is a subjective
measure for the “frequency of engagement in a spectrum of enjoyable activities that could be
done alone or with others, in an array of locations, and […] both active and inactive”
(Pressman et al. 2009: 727). The scale consists of ten activities (i.e., spending quiet time
alone; spending time unwinding; visiting others; eating with others; doing fun things with
others; club, fellowship, and religious group participation; vacationing; communing with
nature; sports; and hobbies). The PEAT utilizes a five-point scale for indicating whether the
person has in the last month, neverto every daypursued each of the activities. A German
translation of the activities has been used in this study. The alpha-coefficient in this sample
was .61, which reflects the heterogeneity of the activities and is in the range of what has been
reported by Pressman et al. (i.e., .65 to .72).
The Questionnaire of Multiple Health Behaviour (MHB-39; Wiesmann et al. 2003)
assesses habitual health-related behaviour in 39 domains (each assessed by a single item; e.g.,
“use of dental floss,” or “eating sweets”). Answers are given on a 5-point scale (1 = “never,”
5 = “always”). Wiesmann et al. provide data on good psychometric properties (in terms of
high reliabilities for the total score) and support for the validity of the instrument. The MHB-
39 has been used in several other studies ever since its publication (e.g., Wiesmann et al.
2011). Following Wiesmann et al.’s (2003) procedure, the 39 items were subjected to a
principal component analysis. Six factors were extracted (explained variance = 40.73%) and
rotated to the Varimax-criterion. In accordance with Wiesmann and colleagues, the factors
were labelled as active way of life (e.g., being active, doing subjectively meaningful things),
compliance (e.g., taking care and complying to regulations in road traffic, being
environmentally aware), substance avoidance (e.g., use of alcohol, nicotine), security
orientation (e.g., practicing safe sex, getting vaccinations), diet (e.g., well-balanced eating,
avoiding rich meals), and hygiene (e.g., regular dental, physical hygiene). The MHB-39 was
analysed on the basis of the total score ( = .82) and at the level of the six factors.
The short form of the Physical Fitness Questionnaire (Bös et al. 2002) consists 12
items, assessing four basic motor abilities (i.e., cardio-respiratory fitness, strength, flexibility,
and coordination). Each item represents a specific activity, which has to be rated on a 5-point
scale (1 = I’m not able to do this activity,” 5 = “I can do this activity without difficulties”).
Sample items are “do a somersault” (coordination), or “jog for an hour without a break”
(cardio-respiratory fitness). Internal consistencies for the total scale was = .80 (cardio-
respiratory fitness: = .86, strength: = .75, flexibility: = .61, and coordination: = .53).
The Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS; Diener et al. 1985) is a five-item measure for
the assessment of life satisfaction (sample item: The conditions of my life are excellent”). It
utilises a 7-point Likert scale (1 = “strongly disagree,” 7 = “strongly agree”). The German
translation has proved its usefulness and good psychometric properties in earlier studies (e.g.,
Proyer et al. in press; Ruch et al. 2010). The alpha-coefficient in this sample was .82.
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Participants completed the measures in an online survey that was hosted by the institution,
where the study has been planned and conducted. Advertisements have been posted via
leaflets at public transport stations, in online forums, and via email-lists. Upon request,
participants received a feedback on their personal results sent to them via Email. They were
not paid for their services. In the literature, collecting data in online-studies has been criticised
(e.g., for possible biases of the collected samples). However, there is empirical evidence that
data collected via the Internet is comparable to data collected in more conventional ways
(e.g., Gosling et al. 2004).
Preliminary analyses.
There were minor relations with demographics for some of the variables that entered the
study. For example, overall playfulness (SMAP) decreased with higher age (r(255) = -.18, p <
.01) and women reported better health behaviour (total score of the MHB-39) than men (M =
3.53, SD = 0.33 vs. M = 3.29, SD = 0.34; d = 0.72), while men exceeded women in all ratings
on their physical fitness (e.g., coordination, M = 4.80, SD = 0.49 vs. M = 4.50, SD = 0.61, d =
0.54) except for flexibility, were women scored higher (M = 3.31, SD = 0.97 vs. M = 3.92, SD
= 0.91, d = 0.65). Therefore, it was decided to control for demographics in the subsequently
conducted analyses.
Adult Playfulness and well-being.
Playfulness and its facets were correlated with all indicators of psychological and physical
well-being that entered the study. Additionally, a multiple correlation coefficient was
computed between all components of the APS and the other variables for estimating the
shared variance of playfulness with these variables. All correlation coefficients are given in
Table 1.
Table 1. Partial Correlations (Controlling for Age and Sex) Between Playfulness and Indicators of Psychological
and Physical Well-Being
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Note. N = 255. Status = Single item measure for self-evaluated health (“How would you rate your current
overall health condition”) and psychological status (“How would you rate your current overall psychological
condition”) on a 10-point scale (1 = very bad, 10 = excellent); SWLS = Satisfaction With Life Scale; SMAP =
Short Measure of Adult Playfulness; facets of Adult Playfulness Scale: SPO = spontaneous, EXP = expressive,
CRE = creative variants of playfulness (of the Adult Playfulness Scale); MHB-39 = Multiple Health Behavior,
AWOL = Active Way of Life; SA = Substance Avoidance; COM = Compliance; HYG = Hygiene; SEC =
Security Orientation; PFQ = Physical Fitness Questionnaire: Strength, Cardio-respiratory fitness (CRF),
Flexibility, and coordination (COR); R
= multiple correlation coefficient between the five scales of the Adult
Playfulness Scale and variable.
Table 1 shows that overall playfulness existed independently from subjective ratings of
feeling healthy. A better self-rated psychological status corresponded with greater playfulness
in terms of an easy onset and high intensity of playful experiences along with the frequent
display of playful activities but also with fun-oriented and creative playfulness. Better health-
ratings as well as psychological status correlated with greater life satisfaction.
Overall playfulness (SMAP) yielded positive relations with an active way of life and
negative relations with substance avoidance and hygiene. The five APS facets shared 22% of
the variance with multiple health behaviours (total score of MHB-39; multiple correlation
coefficient). The APS yielded 28% overlapping variance with an active way of life; all scales
were positively correlated with this facet of health-behaviour (between 9 and 21% shared
variance) except for the silly-variants of playfulness (zero-correlation). Fun and creative
variants of playfulness correlated positively with dietary behaviour (i.e., refraining from
sweets and high fat meals) and silly-variants demonstrated negative relations. For the total
score of health-behaviour, greater fun and creative variants of playfulness were positively and
its silly-forms were negatively related with health-behaviours.
For a final evaluation of these relations, a hierarchical multiple regression analysis with
playfulness as criterion (the SMAP total score as global indicator of playfulness) and the
MHB-39 facet-scores as predictors (entered in step 2, stepwise; step 1 = age and gender,
enter), yielded a multiple correlation coefficient of R
= .13, F(4, 255) = 8.99, p < .001. In the
final model, an active way of life = .27, p < .001, ΔR
= .07) and substance avoidance =
.16, p < .05, ΔR
= .02) were significant predictors. Age and gender accounted for an
additional ΔR
= .04.
Adult playfulness correlated positively with life satisfaction; numerically largest
relations were found for the fun-variants of playfulness. The five subscales of the APS
accounted for 21% of the variance in life-satisfaction (multiple correlation coefficient).
Pursuing an active way of life and compliance were positively related to life satisfaction.
Leading an active way of life was identified as the component with the comparatively
strongest relations with playfulness (e.g., if using the multiple squared correlation coefficient
of the APS facets or the regression analysis with the SMAP as indicator). Therefore, it was
further tested whether this component would also partially mediate the relation between
playfulness and life satisfaction. The mediator analysis was performed using the
bootstrapping approach recommended by Preacher and Hayes (2004, 2008) with 5,000
bootstrap resamples. Estimates were computed in a simple mediation model for direct (c′;
playfulness → life satisfaction), indirect (a × b; a = playfulness → active way of life [AWOL]
and b = AWOL life satisfaction), and total effects (c; c = c + a × b). There was a
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significant total effect (c = .277) and the mediation analysis suggested that the relation
between playfulness and life satisfaction was partially mediated by an active way of life (c′ =
.171; a = .0328, b = .321). The confidence interval for the indirect pathway (99%) was
between .026 and .198 (confidence intervals that do not include 0 indicate significant effects)
and the partial mediation accounted for about 11% of the relationship.
Self-assessed health existed widely independently from overall playfulness with the
exception of greater coordination skills. The numerically highest relations were found
between overall physical fitness and fun and creative variants of playfulness; the latter were
also related to greater cardio-respiratory fitness. Again, a hierarchical linear regression was
computed (criterion = overall playfulness, SMAP) and predictors were the four facets of the
Physical Fitness Questionnaire; they were entered in step 2 (stepwise) after age and gender in
step 1 (enter). There was a significant squared multiple correlation coefficient of R
= .06,
F(3, 255) = 4.61, p < .01. In the final model, greater coordination skills = .13 p < .05, ΔR
= .02) and demographics (ΔR
= .04) were significant predictors. Of course, these coefficients
were small in size, yet they suggest that playfulness as a personality trait can have an impact
on the physical status of a person (at least in self-assessments).
Adult playfulness and enjoyable activities.
The pursuit of enjoyable activities was correlated with overall playfulness and the different
facets of playfulness. As mentioned earlier, the Pittsburgh Enjoyable Activities Test covers
heterogeneous activities and, therefore, an analysis separately for the single activities has been
conducted. Correlation coefficients (controlled for age and gender) are given in Table 2.
Table 2. Partial Correlations (Controlled for Age and Gender) between Enjoyable Activities Covered in the
PEAT and Indicators of Life Satisfaction and Playfulness.
Note. N = 252. PEAT = Pittsburgh Enjoyable Activities Test; activities covered are spending quiet time alone
(1); spending time unwinding (2); visiting others (3); eating with others (4); doing fun things with others (5);
club, fellowship, and religious group participation (6); going for a vacation (7); communing with nature (8);
sports (9); and hobbies (10). SWLS = Satisfaction With Life Scale. SMAP = Short Measure of Adult
Playfulness; facets of Adult Playfulness Scale: SPO = spontaneous, EXP = expressive, CRE = creative variants
of playfulness (of the Adult Playfulness Scale). R
= multiple correlation coefficient between the five scales of
the Adult Playfulness Scale and activity from PEAT.
*p < .05; **p < .01.
Table 2 shows that greater overall playfulness correlated positively with doing fun-things
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with friends, pursuing one’s hobby, engaging oneself in a club, fellowship, and religious
groups and communing with nature. In terms of the multiple correlation coefficient (all APS
subscales and the respective activity), doing joyful things with friends, being in the nature,
and pursuing hobbies yielded the numerically largest coefficients (all ≥ 10% shared variance).
Spending quiet time alone was negatively related to playfulness. Taking consciously time for
relaxing at the end of a day existed unrelated from playfulness. Overall, fun-oriented
playfulness demonstrated the numerically largest relations with the different indicators in the
PEAT. Its silly-variants were widely unrelated from these activities with the exception of low
inclination to spend quiet time alone and a greater endorsement of doing funny things with
others. Here, of course, the question of an overlap in the measurement emerges; the fun-
aspect in both measures (as a variant of playfulness and as a component of enjoyable
activities) could lead to an over-estimation of this relation. Visiting others, doing fun things
with others, vacationing, and communing in nature demonstrated robust relations with life
satisfaction while a greater endorsement of spending quiet time alone yielded negative
Using the ten PEAT-activities as predictors in a hierarchical multiple regression
analysis (step 2, stepwise; step 1 = demographics, enter) for predicting overall playfulness
(SMAP, criterion) revealed a multiple squared correlation coefficient of R
= .15, F(4, 255) =
10.37, p < .001. In the final model, doing fun things with others (β = .28 p < .001, ΔR
= .09),
club, fellowship, and religious group participation = .14 p < .05, ΔR
= .02) and the
demographics (ΔR
= .04) were significant predictors.
The main aim of the present study was describing how playfulness in adults relates to
physical and psychological well-being as well as the pursuit of enjoyable activities. The
findings are encouraging in the sense of support for a positive association between
playfulness and different indicators of well-being. The relations of playfulness with life
satisfaction, the cognitive aspect of subjective well-being, replicated earlier findings well
(Proyer 2012c). Overall playfulness in the sense of an easy onset and high intensity of playful
experiences along with the frequent display of playful activities (SMAP) as well as four out of
the five facets of the Adult Playfulness Scale (APS) demonstrated positive relations with life
satisfaction (r
was between .03 and .18). Of course, not all of these were of practical
relevance but some could be interpreted in more depth. The numerically largest relation was
found for the fun-variants of playfulness (e.g., bright, excitable). This component might be
closest to the experience of positive emotions (cf. Fredrickson 1998, 2001; Seligman 2011).
A further interesting finding of this study was that leading an active way of life partially
mediated (about 11%) of the relation between playfulness and life satisfaction. Hence, there
seems to be an interesting interaction between physical activity and vitality and the relation
between a person’s level of playfulness and satisfaction with life. This helps for a better
understanding of the psychological dynamics underlying this relation. Future research should
test in more depth what types of activities and what facets of vitality play a role here.
There seems to be a mutual relation between playfulness and subjective well-being,
which was also reflected in greater self-ratings of the current psychological state. This lends
support to the notion that it may be fruitful to further explore the potential of playfulness-
based interventions for increasing the subjective well-being. Especially, what facets of
playfulness are associated with what types of well-being. Proyer (2012a) argued that there
could be facets of adult playfulness, which have not yet been studied with much attention.
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Therefore, a closer evaluation at the level of single facets is needed for a better understanding
of these relations.
Furthermore, intervention studies are helpful to understand potential effects of an
increase of playfulness on well-being. The 7-humour-habits program by McGhee (2010) has
its foundations in seeing the sense of humor as a special variant of play, the play with ideas.
Many of the elements of this program deal with playfulness (e.g., the creation of wordplays),
or, more generally speaking, with the rediscovery of ones playfulness. There is evidence of
the effectiveness of this program for increasing well-being and alleviating depression
(Crawford & Caltabiano 2011; Gander et al. in press; Proyer et al. in press; for an overview
see Ruch et al. 2011). However, research in positive interventions has suggested that
interventions focusing on deliberate activities aimed at increasing positive psychological
functioning (e.g., positive emotions) are not only effective (Sin & Lyubomirsky 2009) but can
also be delivered in an economic way via online-settings (e.g., Gander et al. in press;
Seligman et al. 2005). A research aim for future studies is testing whether playfulness-based
interventions can be used in such settings as well and whether short-term interventions (e.g.,
practicing daily for one week) can lead to a sustainable increase in well-being as shown in
Seligman et al. (2005; Proyer et al. in press).
The silly-variants of playfulness (e.g., childlike, whimsical) existed independently from
life satisfaction and self-rated psychological status. One might argue that this is a rather
heterogeneous category, which contains aspects that promote well-being, while others are
aversive. Expressing this type of playfulness might also cause aversive reactions in others
(e.g., indicating disapproval or misunderstanding of this type of behaviour), which may lead
to negative feedbacks and hinder the emergence of positive relations. In Proyer (2012c), silly-
variants of playfulness correlated positively with enjoying to be laughed at (gelotophilia) but
also enjoying laughing at others (katagelasticism; see Ruch & Proyer 2009). The latter has
been linked to aversive behaviour in the sense of bullying-type of behavior (Proyer, Neukom
et al. 2012) but also psychopathic personality traits (Proyer, Flisch et al. 2012). One might
argue that exceedingly expressing the silly-type of playfulness could entail crossing
boundaries, which cause negative reactions on others and are, therefore, negatively evaluated
by others. Overall, these findings support the notion of a plural nature of playfulness but not
all of its facets are associated with subjective well-being. However, since only one specific
aspect of subjective well-being has been tested in this study, the inclusion of different
domains of satisfaction and other aspects of subjective well-being (e.g., positive and negative
affect; see Barnett 2012) is warranted.
As expected, greater playfulness was related to specific types of health-oriented
behaviour while others demonstrated negative relations. The five facets of the APS yielded
between 8 (substance avoidance, compliance) and 28% (active way of life) overlapping
variance with the health-behaviours covered in the MHB-39. Especially, the pursuit of an
active way of life demonstrated positive relations. Thus, greater activity in the sense of a
positive health-oriented behaviour may be a prime characteristic of playful adults. It is argued
that playful adults see many different options of what to do (see also Barnett 2011), which
encourages greater levels of activity. However, not all forms of health-oriented behaviours
were positively related with playfulness. Security orientation (e.g., safe sex, vaccinations),
substance avoidance (e.g., avoiding alcoholic beverages, refraining from smoking), and
dietary behaviour (e.g., well-balanced eating) demonstrated widely negative relations with
playfulness. Proyer and Ruch (2011) found that strengths of restraint (e.g., self-regulation)
from a broader set of positively valued personality traits (character strengths) were negatively
related with playfulness, especially its silly-variants. Taken together with other findings such
as lower expressions in Conscientiousness (Proyer 2012c), this may help explaining why
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aspects such as a well-balanced eating behavior get less endorsed with increasing playfulness.
These findings also refer to a somewhat “darker side” of playfulness in the sense of problems
that might be associated with extreme expressions of playful behavior (e.g., risk orientation).
This encourages a more in-depth study of different types of risky behaviors and playfulness.
There were small yet sensible relations between self-assessed physical fitness and
playfulness; the shared variance between the five facets of the APS and the different aspects
of fitness was between 2 and 5%. In the total score of the Physical Fitness Questionnaire and
the subscale cardio-respiratory fitness (e.g., walking several steps without resting, jogging for
30 minutes), the numerically largest correlation coefficients were found for the fun- and
creative variants of playfulness. Also, the overall playfulness (SMAP) demonstrated positive
relations with coordination skills (e.g., standing on one foot without using the arms, jumping
over a fence of one meter height). The self-rated physical status existed independently from
the expression of playfulness. Of course, the correlation coefficients are not high and should
not be over-interpretedyet, it seems as if there is a tendency for greater playfulness to
permeate into a better physical status. In the literature about playfulness in children, motor
activity is frequently seen as an indicator of playfulness (see e.g., Lieberman 1977). Proyer
(2012a) retrieved this also in written accounts on playfulness in the German language. One
might argue that this could remain stable over time and translate into greater motor activity
(e.g., in preferred leisure time activities) in adults.
In line with the expectations, playfulness was associated with the pursuit of enjoyable
activities. Most of the variance, however, was accounted for by the activity of “doing fun
things with others” (shared 26% of the variance with the five APS subscales) and
“communing with nature” (16%). The endorsements of “sports,” “hobbies,” and “visiting
others” also yielded strong relations (8-10%). Single correlation coefficients, however, were
much larger; e.g., r
= .24 between fun-variants of playfulness and “doing fun things with
others.” This relation, however, needs to be interpreted conservatively because of the obvious
overlap in the measurement. The fun-component in both variables has an impact on the size of
the correlation coefficient. Overall, physical activities, those directed at pursuing hobbies, and
social activities demonstrated the comparatively largest relations. The latter was also
supported by the finding that “spending quiet time alone” was negatively associated with
playfulness (numerically smallest for spontaneous playfulness, r = -.21). This indicates that
not all activities that are potentially enjoyable are also positively related to playfulness; or
more specifically: to playfulness as operationalised in this study. Barnett (2007) or Proyer
(2012a) describe structural assumptions that overlap partially with what has been measured
here but identified also other components that have not been covered in this study. It is
assumed that specific variants of playfulness (e.g., the imaginative, or more intellectual
forms) can also be expressed in solitude, which may also lead to different relations with
enjoyable activities. This, however, needs to be tested empirically. Additionally, the PEAT
only covers a selected range of activities and it may be fruitful to study adult playfulness in its
relation with a broader ranger of leisure activities to see in what areas playfulness is of greater
or lesser relevance (see Barnett 2011; Quian & Yarnal 2011). Furthermore, one might argue
that the perceived function people assign to playfulness in various areas (e.g., leisure
activities, at work, or in partnership) also has an impact on various facets of well-being. This
also needs to be studied in more detail in future studies.
The study allows also discussing a few findings on life satisfaction. For example, life
satisfaction was associated with both, greater self-rated physical and psychological status.
Furthermore, it was positively related with overall health-related type of behaviours
(primarily the active way of life). Also, better physical fitness was related to life satisfaction.
The same was true for the pursuit of enjoyable activities, especially with “doing fun things
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with others,” “communing with nature,” going for a vacation,” and “visiting others”as for
playfulness “spending quality time alone” was negatively related with life satisfaction.
However, not all of the enjoyable activities in the PEAT demonstrated positive relations with
life satisfaction.
This study has several limitations. It is based on a community sample, which is not
well-balanced in terms of age and gender. Therefore, replications with larger samples are
warranted. Additionally, the operationalisation of playfulness and the indicators of subjective
and physical well-being but also with the enjoyable activities can be criticized. For example,
the theoretical foundation and psychometric properties of the Adult Playfulness Scale can be
debated (e.g., Barnett 2007; Csikszentmihalyi 1975; Proyer 2012b). A further question relates
to a possible overlap in the items themselves. For example, being active is an item for the
assessment of the fun-variants of playfulness and the relations with leading an active way of
life might be somewhat biased by the type of measurement. Again, this can be addressed by
using different conceptualisations for playfulness in upcoming studies aimed at replicating
and extending these findings (e.g., Barnett 2007; Proyer 2012a). Only specific facets of well-
being and of enjoyable activities have been tested. The study only covers self-assessed
physical fitness and this may be prone to several distortions. Further studies with additional
measures but also different data sources (e.g., behavioural observations, peer reports,
professional examination of the physical fitness, physiological data, etc.) and experimental
approaches are encouraged.
* The author wishes to thank Fabian Gander, Nicole Jehle, and Sara Wellenzohn for their help with
the preparation of the testing material and the data collection; and Tracey Platt for proofreading the
** Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. René Proyer, Department of
Psychology, University of Zurich, Binzmühlestrasse 14/7, 8050 Zurich, Switzerland; E-mail:
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... Une telle mentalité est notamment traduite par le concept de « caractère joueur » (playfulness), soit la capacité à cadrer ou à recadrer les tâches du quotidien comme des activités intellectuellement stimulantes, divertissantes et personnellement intéressantes (Proyer, 2017). Or, la présence d'un tel caractère joueur a notamment été associé à une satisfaction de vie accrue, ainsi qu'à un style de vie plus actif (e.g., Proyer, 2013), de même qu'à une amélioration du bien-être et à une diminution des symptômes dépressifs à court terme (Proyer et al., 2021), ce qui laisse entendre que le jeu, en tant qu'état d'esprit, pourrait également constituer une clé importante du bonheur (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975). ...
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Le jeu a souvent été présenté comme une activité essentielle au bon dévelop-pement et au bien-être des individus. Néanmoins, les liens entre ces concepts ont peu été étudiés. Dans cet article, nous examinerons comment le jeu, en tant qu'activité et métaphore pour abor-der la réalité, est susceptible d'aider tout un chacun à trouver du sens à son existence et à vivre davantage de bonheur. À cet effet, le jeu sera mis en relation avec les principes-clés de la psychologie exis-tentielle et de la psychologie positive, de sorte à étudier les synergies potentielles entre ces concepts. Les apports et limites de cette métaphore pour favoriser le sens et le bonheur seront discutés et des pistes pratiques seront proposées. ABSTRACT Play has often been presented as an essential activity for the proper development and well-being of individuals. However, the links between these concepts have rarely been studied. In this article, we will examine how play, as an activity and as a metaphor for dealing with reality, can help everyone find meaning in their lives and live more happily. To this end, play will be linked to the key principles of existential psychology and positive psychology, to study the potential synergies between these concepts. The contributions and limits of play as a metaphor to promote meaning and happiness will be discussed, and practical interventions will be proposed.
... However, as individuals transition from adolescence to adulthood the value of play shifts from serving as a developmental powerhouse for individual and interpersonal skills to signifying immaturity or a lack of productivity or discipline. An increasing amount of research regarding the benefits of embracing and pursing playfulness in adulthood document an increase in engagement, creativity, mindfulness, and innovation while also helping to decrease boredom, stress, tension, and nervousness (Guitard et al., 2005, Proyer, 2013, Magnuson & Barnett, 2013. The 2005 article, Toward a Better Understanding of Playfulness in Adults, works to dismantle the misconception that play and playfulness in adulthood indicates a lack of focus, engagement, or productivity by identifying the ways in which, "playfulness enables adults to distance themselves from others, from situations, and from conventions to approach situations with an open mind to find original solutions to problems, to confront difficulties, and to accept failure." ...
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Over the past decade there has been an increasing awareness of the need for wholistic means of support for college and university students. With the rate of mental health concerns continuing to rise, institutions of higher education are working more collaboratively to create increased access to mental health support on campuses. Although academic libraries have customarily been responsible for bolstering their parent institution’s commitment to academic success as well as student and faculty research initiatives – it has become increasingly clear that prioritizing their community’s mental health plays a critical role in achieving these goals. As a result, many academic libraries have begun utilizing methods of play to support the mental health and wellbeing of their patronage. Most commonly art supplies, videogame consoles/games, and kinetic resources such as Legos and Play-Doh are offered year-round for check out at many institutions, while events including coloring and crafting opportunities are offered monthly with an increased presence near midterms and finals. This paper will utilize a combination of annual reports, scholarly articles, and library websites to identify and convey trends, emerging practices, and initiatives.
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The COVID-19 pandemic created high levels of stress that negatively affect mental health and well-being. The stress and coping process is influenced by individual difference factors, such as personality, that impact perceptual processes and emotional reactions. Adult playfulness is a personality characteristic that may lead to better mental and physical health outcomes. We test a theoretical model to determine whether the two factors of perceived stress, perceived self-efficacy (PSE) and perceived helplessness (PH), mediate the relationship among playfulness and coping in adults (N = 694). Scores on the Perceived Stress Scale were high indicating high levels of pandemic-related stress. The SEM model demonstrated direct effects of playfulness on PSE, PH, adaptive, maladaptive, and supportive coping. Both dimensions of perceived stress were partial mediators in the relationship among playfulness and coping outcomes. Findings illustrate the pathways by which adult playfulness can amplify or attenuate the impact of stress perceptions on coping strategies. The importance of building psychological resources such as playfulness to boost adaptive outcomes in stressful situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic is discussed. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s12144-022-02870-0.
This chapter examines the science of time, research insights on creating a better work–life balance for dental professionals, the importance of play over productivity alone, and digital well‐being. Monochronic time is where one activity or task is carried out at a time. Countries that utilise monochronic time include much of the Western world. A biased time perspective can close potential doors to the happiness. Many of the dental professionals may have a bias towards future orientation, which leads them to cultivate strategies to develop conscientiousness to study, grit, and set life goals. As busy dental professionals could really benefit from giving themselves permission to play! There are many benefits of play as adults. The chapter explores what play is, the research findings, especially on how play enriches dental professionals' well‐being, and how they can apply this exciting research to their lives.
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Практическое содержание тренинга составляет комплекс техник, представленных в форме шестнадцати базовых законов эмоциональной привлекательности, с актуализацией вторичных способностей: законточной эмпатии: “как смотреть из окна другого;закон универсальных этических принципов; законздорового юмора; законтрёх эго-состояний; закон трех стадий взаимодействия;закон восьми главных потребностей; закон баланса чрезмерной искренности / чрезмерной вежливости;закон “Я-сообщения“; закон позиции здоровой личности: Я “+“ ТЫ “+“;закон баланса стабильности: ожидания-наблюдения / доверие-послушание;закон баланса ответственности: брать-давать / любовь-справедливость; закон честной коммуникации; закон продуктивного копинга; закон заботливой конфронтации;закон самораскрытия:“что, когда, как, насколько много и кому открывать“; закон самопознания (окно Джохари). Комплекс техник разработан на основе психологической структуры флирта как компонента игривости / игровой компетентности, представленной тремя факторами по результатам констатирующего этапа исследования развития флирта: “Эмоциональный интеллект”, “Самоценность”, “Открытость новому опыту”. Каждый из факторов, опираясь на содержательную характеристику трех стадий взаимодействия, которые структурируют межличностные взаимодействия в целом, соотнесены с определенной стадией и первичной актуальной способностью: “Эмоциональный интеллект” – привязанность, “любовь / принятие”; “Открытость новому опыту” – дифференциация, “доверие”; “Самоценность” – отделение, “уверенность в себе”. Ключевые слова: стадии взаимодействия, актуальные способности, игровая компетентность, флирт, позитивная психотерапия
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Wie lassen sich Glück und Nachhaltigkeit verbinden? Um die gegenwärtige ressourcenintensive Lebensweise zu überwinden, braucht es neue Leitbilder von subjektivem Wohlbefinden, die das gute Leben jenseits von Produktion und Konsum verorten. Die bisherige Debatte um Suffizienz und Postwachstum ist dabei vor allem von asketischen Idealen geprägt, welche für die Mehrzahl der Menschen nicht attraktiv erscheinen. Als eine vielversprechende Variante entwickelt Jochen Dallmer das Modell eines aufgeklärten Hedonismus, welcher das Streben nach subjektivem Wohlbefinden zu einem Beitrag für Nachhaltigkeit werden lässt.
We develop a theory-based measure of adults' playfulness, the Adult Playfulness Scale. Five studies, conducted in laboratory and field sites with over 300 individuals, examine the psychometric properties and correlates of playfulness. As expected, playfulness relates to a set of psychological traits, including cognitive spontaneity and creativity, as well as to functional orientation and rank. No definitive relationships were found, however, between adults' playfulness and gender or age, but playfulness related positively to work outcomes, including task evaluations, perceptions, involvement, and performance, and provided more predictive efficacy than other psychological constructs studied here. Finally, the Adult Playfulness Scale demonstrates good reliability and shows promise for the study of playfulness in the workplace.
This study extends the nomological net of the 1992 Adult Playfulness Scale of Glynn and Webster by examining concurrent validity using a sample of 550 highly intelligent adults. Playfulness correlated positively with innovative attitudes, intrinsic motivational orientation, and negatively with personal orderliness. Playfulness did not correlate with gender or social desirability and had a low correlation with age. These findings extend the validity of the scale and suggest its applicability for different subgroups of employees in the workplace
Zusammenfassung. Ziel dieser Online-Studie war die Einschätzung der wahrgenommenen Förderlichkeit multipler Gesundheitsverhaltensweisen für die Gesundheitserhaltung in einer heterogenen Stichprobe von Gesundheitsexperten (Mediziner, Psychologen und andere Gesundheitsberufe) und Laien (Schüler/Studierende und gesundheitsferne Berufe). Fünfhundertundacht Personen (53% Frauen) im mittleren Alter von 34.4 Jahren schätzten ein, inwieweit sich 39 Verhaltensweisen förderlich oder hinderlich auf die Gesundheitserhaltung einer Person im Allgemeinen auswirken. Diese spezifischen Konsequenzerwartungen unterschieden sich deutlich, so dass sehr wirksame und weniger wirksame Verhaltensweisen identifiziert werden konnten. Eine Hauptkomponentenanalyse mit obliquer Rotation ergab eine Lösung mit fünf unabhängigen Komponenten, die 44.3% der Varianz erklärten und als abhängige Variablen in eine altersadjustierte 5 × 2 MANCOVA (Fachlichkeit × Geschlecht) eingingen. Der signifikante multivariate Haupteffekt für Fachlichkeit war auf Vorsorgeverhalten und Sicherheitsorientiertes Verhalten zurückzuführen, wobei insbesondere Mediziner die stärksten Gesundheitskontingenzen wahrnahmen. Der signifikante multivariate Haupteffekt für Geschlecht ging auf Psychosoziales Regulationsverhalten, Substanzenbezogene Abstinenz, Vorsorgeverhalten und Selbstpflegeverhalten zurück, wobei Frauen erwartungsgemäß stärkere Kontingenzen wahrnahmen als Männer. Auf Gesundheitserhaltung bezogene Konsequenzerwartungen sind das Ergebnis einer Berufs- und Geschlechtersozialisation und damit prinzipiell veränderbar. Als Voraussetzung für die Entwicklung von Kompetenzerwartungen sollten Konsequenzerwartungen im Rahmen von Interventionsmaßnahmen mehr Beachtung finden.
This article reports the development and validation of a scale to measure global life satisfaction, the Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS). Among the various components of subjective well-being, the SWLS is narrowly focused to assess global life satisfaction and does not tap related constructs such as positive affect or loneliness. The SWLS is shown to have favorable psychometric properties, including high internal consistency and high temporal reliability. Scores on the SWLS correlate moderately to highly with other measures of subjective well-being, and correlate predictably with specific personality characteristics. It is noted that the SWLS is suited for use with different age groups, and other potential uses of the scale are discussed.
In this article, the author describes a new theoretical perspective on positive emotions and situates this new perspective within the emerging field of positive psychology. The broaden-and-build theory posits that experiences of positive emotions broaden people's momentary thought-action repertoires, which in turn serves to build their enduring personal resources, ranging from physical and intellectual resources to social and psychological resources. Preliminary empirical evidence supporting the broaden-and-build theory is reviewed, and open empirical questions that remain to be tested are identified. The theory and findings suggest that the capacity to experience positive emotions may be a fundamental human strength central to the study of human flourishing.
The impact of personality on leisure behaviour and experience has been ignored in psychological research. Where personality research on leisure has been reported it is usually highly simplistic using outmoded trait approaches. It is argued that personality constructs have a role in leisure theory if they are conceptualized as the person variable in the interactionism model, that is, used in conjunction with information about the social situation to predict and explain behaviour. As well as identifying several existing personality constructs that are relevant to understanding leisure behaviour, it is suggested that theorists and researchers could benefit from developing «leisure-specific» personality constructs that reflect significant individual differences in response to free time and leisure situations. As an illustration, the author's Self-As-Entertainment personality construct is outlined and data reported providing a preliminary assessment of its reliability and validity.
To examine whether engaging in multiple enjoyable activities was associated with better psychological and physiological functioning. Few studies have examined the health benefits of the enjoyable activities that individuals participate in voluntarily in their free time. Participants from four different studies (n = 1399 total, 74% female, age = 19-89 years) completed a self-report measure (Pittsburgh Enjoyable Activities Test (PEAT)) assessing their participation in ten different types of leisure activities as well as measures assessing positive and negative psychosocial states. Resting blood pressure, cortisol (over 2 days), body mass index, waist circumference, and perceived physiological functioning were assessed. Higher PEAT scores were associated with lower blood pressure, total cortisol, waist circumference, and body mass index, and perceptions of better physical function. These associations withstood controlling for demographic measures. The PEAT was correlated with higher levels of positive psychosocial states and lower levels of depression and negative affect. Enjoyable leisure activities, taken in the aggregate, are associated with psychosocial and physical measures relevant for health and well-being. Future studies should determine the extent that these behaviors in the aggregate are useful predictors of disease and other health outcomes.
The SWLS consists of 5-items that require a ratingon a 7-point Likert scale. Administration is rarely morethan a minute or 2 and can be completed by interview(including phone) or paper and pencil response. The in-strumentshouldnotbecompletedbyaproxyansweringfortheperson.Itemsofthe SWLSaresummedtocreatea total score that can range from 5 to 35.The SWLS is in the public domain. Permission isnot needed to use it. Further information regardingthe use and interpretation of the SWLS can be foundat the author’s Web site∼ediener/SWLS.html. The Web site alsoincludes links to translations of the scale into 27languages.