Running head: STRENGTHS USE AND LIFE SATISFACTION 1
Strengths Use and Life Satisfaction: A Moderated Mediation Approach
Richard P. Douglass & Ryan D. Duffy
University of Florida
Citation: Douglass, R. P., & Duffy, R. D. (2015). Strengths Use and life satisfaction: A
moderated mediation approach. Journal of Happiness Studies, 16, 619-632.
*Author’s note. Correspondence regarding this paper should be directed to Richard P. Douglass,
Department of Psychology, University of Florida, PO Box 112250, Gainesville, FL 32611-2250;
STRENGTHS USE AND LIFE SATISFACTION 2
This manuscript examined mediators and moderators that may explain the link between strengths
use and life satisfaction with a sample of 224 undergraduate students. A mediation model was
tested hypothesizing that self-esteem would partially mediate the strengths use-life satisfaction
link. Additionally, a moderated mediation model was tested examining positive affect as a
moderator within the hypothesized model. Results suggest that a partial reason strengths use
related to life satisfaction was due to an increased level of self-esteem. However, this finding
must be taken in light of our mediation analysis being conducted with cross-sectional data, a
limitation discussed in further detail. Furthermore, positive affect moderated the self-esteem-life
satisfaction link, such that the link was stronger for individuals with low and moderate levels of
positive affect. This manuscript addresses a major gap in the positive psychology literature by
attempting to examine why strengths use relates to increased life satisfaction. Implications for
research are discussed.
Keywords: strengths use, life satisfaction, self-esteem, positive affect
STRENGTHS USE AND LIFE SATISFACTION 3
Strengths Use and Life Satisfaction: A Moderated Mediation Approach
Are people who use their strengths happier? The emergence of positive psychology has
sparked an interest in the relations between strengths use and subjective well-being. In his 2002
book Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman asserts that identifying and implementing one’s
signature strengths is an important aspect of living a happier life. Although research has
consistently found positive relations between strengths use and well-being (Brdar & Kashdan,
2010; Littman-Ovadia & Steger, 2010; Gillham et al., 2011), there is a paucity of research on
why and for whom this relation exists. The present study seeks to examine the association
between strengths use and life satisfaction in an undergraduate sample by examining the
potential mediating effect of self-esteem and potential moderating effect of positive affect.
In order to conceptualize strengths of character, Peterson and Seligman (2004) conducted
a cross-cultural examination of values and found six virtues that were almost universally
endorsed: courage, humanity, justice, temperance, transcendence, and wisdom. Based on their
findings, the Values-in-Action—Classification of Character Strengths was formed which
organized 24 character strengths (e.g., curiosity, hope, zest) under the six noted virtues.
Subsequently, the Values-In-Action—Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS; Peterson & Seligman,
2004) was developed in order to assess the presence of the strengths identified in the VIA-
Classification. The VIA-IS measures levels of the 24 characters strengths which all fulfill 12
criteria (e.g., ubiquitous, measurable, traitlike, distinctive) and are organized under the six
aforementioned virtues (Park, Peterson, & Seligman, 2004).
Character strengths have been linked to well-being among a variety of populations. For
example, Park (2004) conducted a literature review and found the presence of certain character
STRENGTHS USE AND LIFE SATISFACTION 4
strengths within an individual were associated with positive youth development and noted that
there continues to be strong associations between having various strengths of character and life
satisfaction. Several studies utilizing interventions that include the use of strengths have revealed
lasting increases in well-being accompanied with lower levels of depression (Gander, Proyer,
Ruch, & Wyss, 2013; Mongrain & Anselmo-Matthews, 2012; Seligman, Steen, Park, &
Peterson, 2005). Additionally, one study demonstrated that students who participated in character
strengths-based exercises implemented into a school curriculum had higher life satisfaction than
students who did not participate (Proctor et al., 2011b). Other research has shown that higher
levels of strengths uniquely predict more life satisfaction across the lifespan (Isaacowitz et al.,
Strengths Use and Life Satisfaction
Although the mere presence of character strengths is correlated with elevated levels of
life satisfaction, Seligman (2002) asserted that using one’s signature strengths is essential for
living a satisfying and fulfilling life. Strengths use has been found to be a predictor of subjective
well-being in a sample of UK students (Proctor, Maltby, & Linley, 2011a). In the same study it
was found that the use of particular strengths positively predicted life satisfaction. Littman-
Ovadia and Steger (2010) found that individuals who used their strengths in their vocational
activities experienced greater levels of well-being, and the deployment of strengths amongst
volunteers was related to increased well-being. Harzer and Ruch (2012, 2013) have substantiated
findings that strengths use at work is beneficial; in two samples of employed adults, the use of
strengths at work was associated with positive experiences at work. Furthermore, individuals that
used between four to seven strengths at work had higher levels of a calling, which is another
construct associated with a wealth of positive outcomes (Harzer & Ruch, 2012; c.f., Duffy &
STRENGTHS USE AND LIFE SATISFACTION 5
Dik, 2013 for a detailed review). Along with these studies, several others have found strengths
use to be potent predictors of life satisfaction and well-being (Emmons & McCullough, 2003;
Forest et al., 2012; Linley, Nielsen, Gillett, & Biswas-Diener, 2010; Otake, Shimai, Tanaka-
Matsumi, Otsui, & Frederickson, 2006; Seligman et al., 2005). In sum, these findings imply that
for individuals across the life span, the use of strengths relates to increased levels of life
satisfaction and subjective well-being. However, to date, little research has examined why using
one’s strengths relates to heightened happiness.
Self-Esteem as a Mediator
One key variable that may link strengths use to well-being is self-esteem. Minhas (2010)
found that people who actively developed their strengths experienced elevated levels of self-
esteem. A quasi-experimental treatment-control condition design to compare student outcomes
found participation in character strengths-based exercises resulted in slightly increased self-
esteem (Proctor et al., 2011a). Also, Proctor et al. (2011a) found that strengths use was positively
correlated with self-esteem and longitudinal research has demonstrated that strength use leads to
greater self-esteem over time (Wood, Linley, Maltby, Kashdan, & Hurling, 2011).
Govindji and Linley’s (2007) findings that strengths knowledge and strengths use were
significantly associated with self-esteem prompted the following question for future research:
“Do self-esteem and strengths use interact over time to predict higher levels of well-being?”
Concurrent with the theory that strengths use is energizing and authentic (Clifton & Anderson,
2002; Linley & Harrington, 2006; Peterson & Seligman, 2004), we believe that strengths use
contributes to individuals feeling good about themselves, which impacts levels of self-esteem
and in turn influences levels of life satisfaction. Another possibility is inspired by the findings of
Kernis (2003); perhaps, individuals with high levels of self-esteem are more likely to use their
STRENGTHS USE AND LIFE SATISFACTION 6
strengths in goal pursuit, in turn improving satisfaction with life.
Positioning self-esteem as a mediator between strength use and life satisfaction implies a
link from self-esteem to life satisfaction. Diener and Diener (1995) conducted a study with a
sample of college students (N = 13,118) from 31 countries and revealed a correlation of .47
between self-esteem and life satisfaction (c.f., Lucas, Diener, & Suh, 1996; Zhang & Leung,
2002), and other studies have exhibited similar findings and demonstrated self-esteem to be one
of the strongest predictors of life satisfaction (Chen, Cheung, Bond, & Leung, 2006; Diener,
Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985; Joshanloo & Afshari, 2011; Pavot & Diener, 1993; Westaway
& Maluka, 2005; Westaway, Maritz, & Golele, 2003; Zhang, 2005). Our hypothesis that self-
esteem is a mediator of strengths-use and life satisfaction builds upon the studies of Yarcheski,
Mahon, and Yarcheski, (2001) and Furnham and Cheng, (2000) that have illustrated that self-
esteem has a positive effect as an intervening variable on the relation between variables with
conceptual content similar to general well-being, satisfaction with life, perceived happiness and
Positive Affect as a Moderator
Another way in which strengths use may relate to life satisfaction is via positive affect.
Diener (1984) identified three components of subjective well-being: positive affect, negative
affect and life satisfaction. In many studies researchers have analyzed data by calculating a
composite score of subjective well-being using the three components noted above (Bettencourt &
Sheldon, 2001; Bostic & Ptacek, 2001; Elliot, Gable, & Mapes, 2005; Keyes, Shmotkin & Ryff,
2002; Proctor et al., 2011a; Roysamb, Harris, Magnus, Vitterso, & Tams, 2002). However,
according to Busseri, Sadava, and DeCourville (2007), this method wrongly assumes that
positive affect, negative affect and life satisfaction all contribute equally to the measure of
STRENGTHS USE AND LIFE SATISFACTION 7
subjective well-being. With this methodology of creating a composite score, researchers cannot
be sure to which degree results reflect common variance shared among the three components, or
the unique variance that positive affect, negative affect and life satisfaction possess.
Lucas et al. (1996) demonstrated that positive affect, negative affect and life satisfaction
all have discriminant validity. Multiple studies have supported this finding by illustrating that
positive affect, negative affect and life satisfaction correlate differently with the same set of
variables (Chamberlain, 1988; Diener & Lucas, 1999; Diener, Smith, & Fujita, 1995). Watson,
Clark, and Tellegen (1988) also revealed that positive and negative affect are fairly independent
of each other. Thus, in the present study we will assess the life satisfaction and positive affect
components of subjective well-being separately, in line with recommendations of Diener and
colleagues (Diener 1984, 1994; Diener & Lucas, 1999; Diener, Oishi, & Lucas, 2003; Lucas et
al., 1996; Pavot & Diener, 1993). Given that this manuscript is concerned with strengths use,
which is a positively focused construct, negative affect will not be examined. Furthermore, there
is no theoretical rationale for including negative affect in the present study, so we felt the
inclusion of this construct would have been inappropriate.
Exploring the components of subjective well-being separately will allow us to examine
whether positive affect moderates the relation between self-esteem and life satisfaction.
Although positive affect has seldom been studied as a moderator in relation to life satisfaction,
the link between the two is logical. Positive affect represents how much positive emotion an
individual experiences which would influence a person’s satisfaction with life. Therefore, it is
possible that individuals with varying levels of positive affect will differ in how they experience
Positive affect has been found to be a moderator in a gratitude intervention study (Froh,
STRENGTHS USE AND LIFE SATISFACTION 8
Kashdan, Ozimkowski, & Miller, 2009). In this study, the authors found that individuals low in
positive affect experienced higher gains in subjective well-being than those high in positive
affect. The noted study raises the following question pertinent to the current study: Does the
manner in which self-esteem mediates the relation between strengths use and life satisfaction
depend on one’s level of positive affect? The proposed question has not been examined in the
literature, thus, the present study seeks to answer this question. It may be that those with
differing levels of positive affect experience emotional gains from the presence of high self-
esteem in different ways.
The Present Study
In the current study we seek to explore the relations between strengths use and life
satisfaction with a sample of undergraduate students. Based on the existing research on strengths
use as well as related constructs, we have two hypotheses for the current study: 1) we
hypothesize that strengths use will be associated with elevated levels of life satisfaction, and 2)
self-esteem will partially mediate the relation between strengths use and life satisfaction.
Additionally, we will examine the degree to which positive affect moderates the link of strengths
use and self-esteem and the link of self-esteem and life satisfaction.
The sample consisted of 224 undergraduate students from across the United States.
Participants reported a mean age of 19.4 years (SD = 1.8 years). Subjects self-identified as male
(34.4%), female (64.7%), transgender (0.4%), and other (0.4%). The sample was comprised of
mainly Caucasian students (68.8%), but also included Hispanic American (15.2%), African
STRENGTHS USE AND LIFE SATISFACTION 9
American (5.4%), Asian American (4.0%), Asian Indian (1.8%), Middle Eastern (0.9%), Pacific
Islander (0.4%), and Other (3.6%).
Life satisfaction. The Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS: Diener et al., 1985) was used
to measure global life satisfaction. Participants were asked to respond to each of the five items
on a 7-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Example items
include “The conditions of my life are excellent,” and “So far I have gotten the important things I
want in life.” In the instrument development study, the authors found the scales to have a strong
internal consistency (α =.87) and good test-retest reliability (r = .82). Since its publication, the
scale has been used in thousands of studies, finding the scale to be reliable and to correlate in the
expected directions with a myriad well-being variables such as positive affect and self-esteem
(Arrindell et al., 1999). In the current study the estimated internal consistency reliability was .87.
Positive affect. The 10-item Positive Affect (PA) subscale of The Positive and Negative
Affect Scale (PANAS: Watson et al., 1988) was administered to measure the degree to which
participants experience positive affect. Participants were instructed to indicate to what extent
they have felt each way during the past week and responded to items such as “strong,”
“determined,” and “inspired” on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (very slightly or not at all)
to 5 (very much). In regards to validity, the PANAS has been shown to correlate in the expected
directions with measures of related constructs (Watson et al., 1988). In the original study the
PANAS scale was unaffected by the time instructions used, and the internal consistency
reliabilities ranged from .86 to .90 for PA (Watson et al., 1988). For the current study, the
estimated internal consistency reliability of the PA subscale was α = .86.
STRENGTHS USE AND LIFE SATISFACTION 10
Strengths use. Developed by Govindji and Linley (2007), the Strengths Use Scale (SUS)
is a 14-item self-report scale that measures individual strengths use. Example items include: “I
always play to my strengths” and “Using my strengths comes naturally to me”. Participants
answered items on a 7-point Likert scale ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. In the
instrument development study, the authors reported an alpha of .95 (Govindji & Linley, 2007).
Also, the SUS has been shown to correlate with appropriate criterion measures, such as the
Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (r = .56) and the New General Self-Efficacy Scale (r = .63), and
with other constructs, such as psychological well-being (r = .56) and subjective well-being (r =
.51) (Govindji & Linley, 2007). Wood et al. (2011) found the internal consistency of the SUS to
range from .94 to .97 and found a test-retest reliability of r = .84. Wood et al. (2011) also found
the measure to have good criterion validity with well-being, positively correlating with self-
esteem at r = .50, and positive affect at r = .52. In the current study, the estimated internal
consistency reliability was α = .95.
Self-esteem. The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSE: Rosenberg, 1965) was used to
measure participants’ self-esteem. The RSE contains 10 items and requires participants to
respond to each item (e.g., “I certainly feel useless at times”) using a 4-point Likert scale ranging
from strongly disagree to strongly agree. The internal consistency reliabilities have been
reported to range from .80 to .92, and the test-retest correlation has been reported at .82, and
several studies have established the validity of the scale by demonstrating correlations in the
expected direction with overlapping variables. (Fleming & Courtney, 1984; Reynolds, 1988;
Rosenberg, 1979; Sam, 2000). In the current study, the estimated internal consistency reliability
was α = .74.
STRENGTHS USE AND LIFE SATISFACTION 11
In order to collect data from a diverse, undergraduate sample, we recruited participants in
two ways. First, a link to the survey was posted on social networking and online classified
websites, specifically recruiting undergraduate students. In this case, people volunteered to
complete the survey. Other individuals participated in the study via the University of Florida’s
Psychology research participation pool. Students taking the survey through the research pool
were awarded course credit upon completion of the study. A consent form was provided for all
participants stating that their responses would be kept private and confidential. Individuals that
were not undergraduate students were screened out of the survey after completing the
To ensure the quality and reliability of the data, we conducted several preliminary
analyses. First, we assessed the data for outliers. Upon inspection of the box plots for each
variable, strengths use and self-esteem appeared to have several outliers. We removed scores that
exceeded 3.5 standard deviations above or below the means for these variables. We removed
three cases in total. Next, we assessed each variable for normality. The skew for any variable did
not approach one, and the visually inspected histograms appeared normally distributed. Our
analysis plan included three steps. In Step 1, we examined correlations. In step 2, we explored
whether or not self-esteem mediated the strengths use and life satisfaction relation. Finally, in
Step 3, we tested if the mediation found in Step 2 was moderated by positive affect.
Step 1: Correlations
Correlations among study variables are displayed in Table 1. As expected, satisfaction
STRENGTHS USE AND LIFE SATISFACTION 12
with life, positive affect, strengths use, and self-esteem all had moderate to strong correlations
with one another.
Step 2: Mediation
Next, we tested whether self-esteem mediated the relation between strengths use and life
satisfaction. Using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) mediation macro
developed by Preacher and Hayes (2008), we performed a mediation analyses based on 5,000
bootstrapped samples using bias corrected and accelerated 95% confidence intervals (CIs). This
analysis allowed us to calculate the direct paths between our variables, in the form of regression
weights, and the significance of the indirect path, which is the reduction of the relation between
strengths use and life satisfaction when self-esteem is included in the model. The indirect path is
significant when the 95% CI does not include 0. For the analysis, we z-transformed all the
variables so variable effect sizes could be compared. Strengths use had significant, direct paths to
self-esteem (β = .49, SE = .06, p < .00001) and life satisfaction (β = .55, SE = .06, p < .00001).
Self-esteem also had a significant direct path to life satisfaction (β = .37, SE = .06, p < .00001).
When self-esteem was included in the model, strengths use had a reduced relation with life
satisfaction (β = .37, SE = .06, p < .00001), and the reduction in this relation was significant (SE
= .07, CI = [.07, .32]). The indirect effect was .18. Therefore, self-esteem partially mediated
strengths use and life satisfaction. The total model was significant, F(2, 218) = 70.13, p <
.00001, and explained 39% of the variance in life satisfaction.
Step 3: Testing the Moderated, Mediator Model
The next step in our analysis was to test whether positive affect moderated the mediation
found in Step 2. To test moderated mediation (MODMED), we used the MODMED macro
developed by Preacher, Rucker, and Hayes (2007). This macro allowed us to assess whether a
STRENGTHS USE AND LIFE SATISFACTION 13
particular mediation effect is contingent upon the level of a moderating variable by providing
coefficients for both the mediator and the dependent variable models and allowing us to probe
whether or not the mediation exists at specified levels of the moderator.
Table 2 shows the relevant parts of the MODMED output for positive affect. We z-
transformed all variables before entering them into the model in order to compare effect sizes
and reduce multicollinearity. First, there are two multiple regression models: the mediator
variable model predicting self-esteem and the dependent variable model predicting life
satisfaction. The significant interaction between self-esteem and positive affect in the dependent
variable model suggests the indirect effect from self-esteem to life satisfaction is moderated by
positive affect (See Figure 1). The negative sign implies that the indirect effect is larger for those
higher in positive affect. The significant interaction gives us precedent to probe the indirect
effect at different levels of the moderator. The default output of MODMED provides normal
theory tests of the conditional indirect effects at ± 1 SD from the mean. As Table 2 shows, the
mediation is significant 1 SD below the mean, at the mean, and 1 SD above the mean. Preacher
et al. (2007) recommend verifying these results with bootstrapped standard errors used to create
95% CIs. Therefore, we probed the conditional indirect effects at the mean and 1 SD below and
above the mean using 95% bias accelerated and corrected CIs with 5,000 bootstrapped
resamples. The indirect effect at 1 SD below the mean [.10, .37] and at the mean [.05, .21] were
significant, but the indirect effect at 1 SD above the mean [-.01, .15] was not (See Figure 2).
The present study had three goals: 1) to test an established link relating strengths use to
elevated levels of life satisfaction, and 2) to examine self-esteem as a partial mediator in the
relation between strengths use and life satisfaction. Additionally, 3) we investigated the degree to
STRENGTHS USE AND LIFE SATISFACTION 14
which positive affect serves as a moderator of the link between strengths use and self-esteem and
the link of self-esteem and life satisfaction. Although several studies in the extant literature have
examined the correlational link between strengths use and life satisfaction, the present study is
one of the first studies to date to begin unpacking some of the nuances of this relation.
Regarding our first formal hypothesis, strengths use was indeed associated with elevated
levels of life satisfaction; measures of strengths use and life satisfaction exhibited a strong,
positive correlation. This is consistent with past research that has demonstrated strengths use
positively relates to life satisfaction (e.g., Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Forest et al., 2012;
Linley et al., 2010; Proctor et al., 2011a). The link between these two constructs has been clearly
established across a host of studies. A concern that this manuscript addresses is why and for
whom this relation exists.
To address our second hypothesis, initial mediation results supported our hypothesis that
self-esteem partially mediates the relation between strengths use and life satisfaction. These
findings corroborate results from other studies that strengths use is positively related to self-
esteem and leads to greater self-esteem over time (Govindji & Linley, 2007; Minhas, 2010;
Proctor et al., 2011a; Wood et al., 2011). Our results also echo the well-established notion that
self-esteem has a strong, positive association with life satisfaction (Chen et al., 2006; Diener &
Diener, 1995; Diener et al., 1985; Joshanloo & Afshari, 2011; Lucas et al., 1996; Zhang, 2005;
Zhang & Leung, 2002). A potential reason for the mediation found in the present study is that
strengths use may facilitate individuals feeling good about themselves, which contributes to
increased levels of self-esteem and in turn results in one being more satisfied with life. However,
this mediation effect must be taken in light of our mediation analysis being run on cross-
sectional data, a matter discussed in more detail in our limitations section.
STRENGTHS USE AND LIFE SATISFACTION 15
Another goal of the current study was to explore positive affect as a moderator of the
strengths use-self-esteem and self-esteem-life satisfaction links. In order to examine this
potential moderating effect, we examined the life satisfaction and positive affect components of
subjective well-being separately; this methodology is in line with recommendations of several
scholars (e.g., Diener et al., 2003; Lucas et al., 1996; Pavot & Diener, 1993). Our MODMED
analysis revealed that positive affect moderated the self-esteem-life satisfaction link; this link
was significant only for individuals with low to moderate levels of positive affect. This finding
mirrors results from a previous gratitude intervention study in which individuals low in positive
affect experienced higher gains in subjective well-being than individuals with high positive
affect (Froh et al., 2009). A possible explanation for our moderation effect is that those with high
positive affect are less likely to experience emotional gains from the presence of high self-
esteem, but for those with moderate to little positive affect, self-esteem will have a larger impact.
People with high positive affect already tend to feel good about themselves, so the effect of
increased self-esteem may be negligible. However, for individuals who experience low or
moderate levels of positive emotions, good feelings that accompany increased self-esteem
(perhaps as a function of strength use) may more substantially increase satisfaction with life.
This is the first study to date to find positive affect to function in such a manner and is a finding
that should be further explored by future researchers.
In general, findings of this study indicate that individuals who use their strengths
experience greater levels of life satisfaction. Furthermore, this relation is mediated by self-
esteem, and the path between self-esteem and life satisfaction is moderated by low and moderate
levels of positive affect. These results add to the existing literature on strengths use; to date this
is the first study to explore the role of self-esteem as a mediator and positive affect as a
STRENGTHS USE AND LIFE SATISFACTION 16
moderator in relation to strengths use and life satisfaction. The present study addresses a major
gap in the current positive psychology literature; whereas the correlational link between strengths
use and life satisfaction has been well-established, this is one of the first studies to examine some
of the intricacies of this relation.
Limitations and Future Directions
The present study had several limitations that are noteworthy. First, this study was cross-
sectional, and thus, causal relations could not be determined from our data. Relatedly, a second
limitation concerns the methodology utilized, as scholars have become increasingly concerned
with mediation analysis conducted on cross-sectional data due to the fact that mediation effects
revealed in cross-sectional studies may be non-significant with longitudinal data (Maxwell &
Cole, 2007; Maxwell, Cole, & Mitchell, 2011). Thus, it is possible that the mediation found in
the present study is a biased estimate. However, Wood et al., (2011) utilized longitudinal
research methodology and demonstrated that strengths use leads to greater self-esteem over time.
Furthermore, temporal precedence for the arrangement of self-esteem and life satisfaction has
been established by past longitudinal studies that have demonstrated the predictive ability of self-
esteem on life satisfaction (Liu, Shen, Xu, & Gao, 2013; Ye, Yu, & Li, 2012). Despite these
findings buttressing the arrangement of the constructs in our model, conclusions from this study
should be considered tentative until replicated with longitudinal data.
A third limitation was the small sample size that was largely female and comprised solely
of undergraduate students from the United States. Studies focusing on racial/ethnic differences
and varying socioeconomic statuses would be helpful in establishing the generalizability of these
findings. Fourth, our study employed a self-report measure of strengths use. Individuals may not
always accurately report their use of strengths. Efforts should be made to use other measures
STRENGTHS USE AND LIFE SATISFACTION 17
coupled with self-report measures to obtain more accurate data. Lastly, further research is needed
to confirm the psychometric properties of the Strengths Use Scale (SUS) to provide support for
the findings of this study and those of Govindji and Linley (2007). Although Proctor et al.
(2011a) and Wood et al. (2011) have found the SUS to have strong internal consistency, test-
retest reliability, and good criterion validity, the scale is still relatively new and is in need of
more confirmation of the psychometric properties.
The results of the current study open several avenues of potential research. First, we
tested one potential mediator of strengths use and life satisfaction, but it is likely that there are
several other theoretically grounded mediators that may also account for these relations. Some
possible mediators may include (but are not limited to) job satisfaction, relationship satisfaction,
perceptions of meaning in life, and flow experiences. A useful study would employ a multiple
mediator approach that explored the relation of strengths use to life satisfaction as mediated by
the noted variables. Such a study would provide evidence on why one should utilize their
strengths in all domains of life.
Another unique finding of the present study was that positive affect moderated the self-
esteem-life satisfaction link in our model, such that individuals with low to moderate levels of
positive affected experienced stronger relations. Future studies testing additional mediators
should also examine positive affect as a potential moderator, as the construct is of clear
importance. By examining the positive affect and life satisfaction components of subjective well-
being independently, we were able to assess the unique contribution of each variable. We suggest
that scholars employ a similar approach and assess the components of subjective well-being
separately when examining constructs similar to those in the present study.
STRENGTHS USE AND LIFE SATISFACTION 18
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Descriptive Statistics and Correlations (N =224)
1. Satisfaction with life
2. Positive affect
3. Strengths use
Note. All correlations are significant at the .01 level.
STRENGTHS USE AND LIFE SATISFACTION 28
Moderated mediation analysis for positive affect moderating self-esteem’s mediation of strengths
use and life satisfaction
Mediator variable model
Strengths use X Positive
Dependent variable model
Self-esteem X Positive affect
Conditional effects at positive affect ± 1 SD
Positive affect score
Note. SD = standard deviation; SE = standard error. The conditional indirect effect is calculated
(a1 +a3W)b1 where a1 the path from strengths use to self-esteem, a3 is the path from the
interaction of life satisfaction and positive affect to self-esteem, W is positive affect, and b1 is the
path from self-esteem to life satisfaction.
STRENGTHS USE AND LIFE SATISFACTION 29
Figure 1. Moderated mediation model examining the moderating effect of positive affect on the
mediation of strengths use and life satisfaction by self-esteem.
STRENGTHS USE AND LIFE SATISFACTION 30
Figure 2. The interaction of Self-Esteem and Positive Affect on Life Satisfaction