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Entrepreneurs' Mental Health and Well-Being: A Review and Research Agenda

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Entrepreneurs' Mental Health and Well-Being: A Review and Research Agenda

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Interest in entrepreneurs' mental health and well-being (MWB) is growing in recognition of the role of MWB in entrepreneurs' decision-making, motivation and action. Yet relevant knowledge is dispersed across disciplines, which makes it unclear what we currently understand about entrepreneurs' MWB. In this systematic review I integrate insights from 144 empirical studies. These studies show that research is focused on three research questions: (1) Do different types of entrepreneur differ in their MWB? What are the (2) antecedents and (3) consequences of entrepreneurs' MWB? The review systematizes evidence on known antecedents and consequences of entrepreneurs' MWB but also reveals overlooked and undertheorized sources and outcomes of entrepreneurs' MWB. The review provides a mapping and framework that advance research on entrepreneurs' MWB and help to position entrepreneurs' MWB more centrally in management and entrepreneurship research. It calls for researchers to go beyond applying models developed for employees to understand entrepreneurs' MWB. Instead, the findings point the way to developing a dedicated theory of entrepreneurial work and MWB that is dynamic, socialized, open to considering context, and acknowledges variability and fluidity across entrepreneurs' life domains, as well as the centrality of work for entrepreneurs' identity.
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rAcademy of Management Perspectives
2018, Vol. 32, No. 3, 290322.
https://doi.org/10.5465/amp.2017.0001
SYMPOSIUM
ENTREPRENEURSMENTAL HEALTH AND WELL-BEING: A
REVIEW AND RESEARCH AGENDA
UTE STEPHAN
Aston University
Interest in entrepreneursmental health and well-being (MWB) is growing in recognition
of the role of MWB in entrepreneursdecision making, motivation, and action. Yet
relevant knowledge is dispersed across disciplines, which makes what we currently
understand about entrepreneursMWB unclear. In this systematic review I integrate
insights from 144 empirical studies. These studies show that research is focused on three
research questions: (1) Do different types of entrepreneurs differ in their MWB? What are
the (2) antecedents and (3) consequences of entrepreneursMWB? The review system-
atizes evidence on known antecedents and consequences of entrepreneursMWB but
also reveals overlooked and undertheorized sources and outcomes of entrepreneurs
MWB. The review provides a mapping and framework that advance research on en-
trepreneursMWB and help to position entrepreneursMWB more centrally in man-
agement and entrepreneurship research. It calls for researchers to go beyond applying
models developed for employees to understand entrepreneurs. Instead, the findings
point the way to developing a dedicated theory of entrepreneurial work and MWB that is
dynamic, socialized, and open to considering context and acknowledges variability and
fluidity across entrepreneurslife domains, as well as the centrality of work for entre-
preneursidentity.
Entrepreneurs create jobs and contribute to eco-
nomic productivity and growth (see Van Praag &
Versloot, 2008, for a review). They are an essential
element of dynamic economies. While the economic
benefits of entrepreneurial activity are clear, the
outcomes for the individual entrepreneur appear
paradoxical. Being an entrepreneur has been char-
acterized as one of the most stressful jobs (Cardon &
Patel, 2015; Patzelt & Shepherd, 2011), with average
earnings that are lower than if one were to work as a
paid employee (Van Praag & Versloot, 2008). Despite
this, entrepreneurs report being extremely happy in
their work and highly satisfied with their life (Benz &
Frey, 2004; Stephan & Roesler, 2010). Why might this
be? What do we know about the sources of entre-
preneursmental health and well-being? Why, and
for what outcomes, do the mental health and well-
being of entrepreneurs matter?
Mental health is defined by the World Health
Organization (WHO) as not merely the absence of
mental health problems but as a state of well-being
in which every individual realizes his or her own
potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life,
can work productively and fruitfully, and is able
to make a contribution to her or his community
(WHO, 2014). Mental health and well-being (hence-
forth mental well-being, or MWB) are traditionally
researched in psychology, medicine, and public
health, but have been receiving increasing attention
in other disciplines. An example of this broader in-
terest is the effort to develop national well-being
accounts (e.g., European Commission, 2016; Stiglitz,
Sen, & Fitoussi, 2009). To most people, MWB is
I am grateful to Ian Macdonald and Sara Klinkebiel for
comments and excellent research assistance. The manu-
script benefited from comments on prior versions received
from the participants in the EntrepreneursMental Health
Workshop at Syracuse University in October 2016; during
presentations in 2017 at the University of Oxford, Ghent
University, University of Norwich, University of Surrey,
and Ivey Business School; and from reviewers for the
2018 Australian Centre for Entrepreneurship Research
Exchange (ACERE) Conference. All mistakes are my own.
290
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a valued outcome in its own rightwe want to be
happy”—and we perform better when we are feel-
ing well (Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005).
MWB is central to effective human functioning
(Ryan & Deci, 2001; Ryff, 2017), and entrepreneurs are
no exception. Happyentrepreneurs are more likely
to persist and perform better (e.g., Wincent, ¨
Ortqvist, &
Drnovsek, 2008). High MWB is an ongoing benefit that
entrepreneurs derive from their work and, at least in
part, generate through their work. Entrepreneurs may
make financially costly decisions, such as delaying
business failure, to protect their well-being (Shepherd,
Wiklund, & Haynie, 2009); they value MWB and see it
as an indicator of their success (Wach, Stephan, &
Gorgievski, 2016). Thus, research on entrepreneurs
MWB is critical to understanding entrepreneurial ac-
tion, decision making, and motivation (e.g., Shepherd
& Patzelt, 2015) and ultimately helps to sustain the
economic and societal benefits of entrepreneurship.
For all these reasons, interest in entrepreneurs
MWB is growing. Even though the topic found its way
into the entrepreneurship journals only relatively
recently,1a substantial body of relevant research on
entrepreneursMWB exists in other disciplines, such
as organizational psychology, economics, and occu-
pational health research. For instance, organizational
psychologists investigate predictors of entrepre-
neursMWB and have linked the level of MWB to
performance (Gorgievski & Stephan, 2016). Econo-
mists see well-being as a way of understanding the
non-monetary returns of entrepreneurship(Van Praag
& Versloot, 2008). Occupational health research seeks
to document the health risks associated with occu-
pations including entrepreneurship, often through
epidemiological studies.
However,thereislittleexchangeacrossdisciplines,
and the research on entrepreneursMWB remains
fragmented. This means there is no shared base of
knowledge and only piecemeal theorizing on entre-
preneursMWB. We lack an overview of the anteced-
ents and consequences of entrepreneursMWB and the
extent to which they are underpinned by robust evi-
dence. Parallel lines of inquiry exist, but without an
integrative framework they can give the impression of
confusing findings as to the nature of entrepreneurs
MWB. The purpose of this review is to take stock,
outline areas of consensus, identify conflicting find-
ings, highlight gaps in our knowledge, and develop
a framework for research on entrepreneursMWB.
By synthesizing evidence from 144 empirical
studies that I identified through a systematic review
approach (Tranfield, Denyer, & Smart, 2003), this
review provides a platform and framework for future
research by integrating what we know about entre-
preneursMWB. In doing so, it advances research on
entrepreneursMWB and helps to position it more
centrally in management and entrepreneurship re-
search. Specifically, the review findings identify
new overlooked antecedents (entrepreneursmoti-
vation, their human capital, firm and financial
characteristics, the market and social context) and
consequences (for others around the entrepreneur
and possibly for collectives) of entrepreneursMWB.
The review also documents evidence on known an-
tecedents (work, personality, and social character-
istics) and consequences (persistence, performance,
and work behaviors) of entrepreneursMWB.
Building on these findings, the review points the
way to developing a new dedicated theory of en-
trepreneurial work and MWB. This theory goes be-
yond the models developed for employees that have
to date dominated research on entrepreneursMWB
while failing to take account of the uniqueness of
entrepreneurship. It offers and encourages a much
more dynamic, socialized, and contextualized view
of entrepreneurswork and their MWB. It acknowl-
edges heterogeneity among entrepreneurs and pays
tribute to entrepreneursfluid and variable work-life
settings, the centrality of work for their identity, the
importance of other individuals within and outside
of their firm, and the critical impact of market and
country contexts on entrepreneurswork and MWB.
BACKGROUND
First, I will clarify the key concepts of the review:
entrepreneurship, mental health, and well-being. I will
then introduce the main perspectives for this research.
Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship is often understood as new
entry”—that is, the creation of a new venture
(e.g., Gartner, 1989)or more broadly as an occu-
pational choice of individuals to work for themselves
on their own account and risk (H´
ebert & Link, 1982).
The latter definition includes self-employment and
is commonly used in research on well-being and
entrepreneurship (Gorgievski & Stephan, 2016). It
also guides this review. My presentation of the
findings distinguishes types of entrepreneurs where
possible.
1This review identified four publications on entrepre-
neursMWB in entrepreneurship journals between 1950
and 2010, and 22 between then and June 2017.
2018 291Stephan
Mental Health and Well-Being
The reviewed literature uses, with varying mean-
ings, terms such as mental health,psychological
well-being,subjective well-being, and distress. The
WHO definition illustrates that mental health and
well-being may be understood as a continuum, and
this understanding underpins the review. At one
end, we find mental health problems, or ill-being,
such as affective, anxiety, and personality disorders
(e.g., major depression, generalized anxiety disor-
der),2that impair individualsdaily functioning, as
well as less severe feelings of distress (e.g., feeling
anxious, tense, sad, or down) that reduce in-
dividualsquality of life. At the other end, we find
well-beingthat is, the experience of living in
a state that is in some sense good(Warr, 2013, p.
77)which is characterized by feelings of satisfac-
tion, happiness, or optimal psychological func-
tioning and experience(Ryan & Deci, 2001, p. 142).
Two types of well-being are often differentiated:
hedonic and eudaimonic.
Hedonic well-being refers to happiness in terms of
attaining pleasure and avoiding pain (Kahneman,
Diener, & Schwarz, 1999; Ryan & Deci, 2001). It has
three components: life satisfaction, the presence of
positive affect, and the absence of negative affect
(Diener, Suh, Lucas, & Smith, 1999). While affect is
emotion-based, life satisfaction contains a cogni-
tive, evaluative component.3Eudaimonic well-being
entails meaning; self-realization; and the degree to
which a person is fully functioning and feels alive,
thriving, and authentic (Ryan & Deci, 2001). It is re-
lated to resilience and adaptability in adverse situa-
tions (Ryff, 2017). Eudaimonic well-being stems, for
instance, from succeeding in effortful, self-determined
activities (Ryan & Deci, 2001; Ryff, 2017), a description
that seemingly fits entrepreneurship well. It goes be-
yond experiencing feelings of satisfaction and plea-
sure derived from achieving valued outcomes or
goals, which are characteristic of hedonic well-being.
MWB can be measured at varying levels of ab-
straction. General MWB describes broad tendencies
over time that are not related to a specific life do-
main, object, or event. Domain-specific indicators
such as work-related affect and job satisfaction are
often used in research on entrepreneurs. Life satis-
faction as a general indicator is positively related to
satisfaction with domains such as work, family, or
leisure time (Bowling, Eschleman, & Wang, 2010).
For entrepreneurs, job satisfaction is more closely re-
lated to satisfaction with life, family, and self than it is
for employees, reflecting the centrality of work in their
life (Loewe, Araya-Castillo, Thieme, & Batista-Foguet,
2015; Thompson, Kopelman, & Schriesheim, 1992).
The presentation of review findings differentiates
among indicators of MWB, including mental disor-
ders, distress, and hedonic and eudaimonic well-being
as well as general and domain-specific indicators, as
much as possible. The online supplement contains
further detail.4
Dominant Perspectives on EntrepreneursMWB
in Current Research
Research on entrepreneursMWB has primarily
been conducted from organizational psychology,
economics, and occupational health perspectives.
Although their emphasis varies, these three per-
spectives take as their starting point salaried em-
ployees, and they then highlight differences in the
nature and quality of work of entrepreneurs. Similar
arguments are found in entrepreneurship research.
They emphasize that entrepreneurs face working
conditions that are more extreme than those of sala-
ried employees, including higher levels of uncer-
tainty, responsibility, and complexity; more intense
time pressures; and longer working hours. These
work characteristics are stressors because individ-
uals typically experience them as overwhelming
and appraise them as threatening (Lazarus & Folkman,
2For the full description of all mental disorders, see the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
(DSM; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) or the In-
ternational Statistical Classification of Diseases and Re-
lated Health Problems (ICD, chapter 5; World Health
Organization, 2016).
3The terms emotions and well-being are sometimes
used interchangeably in the literature. Thus, a clarification
seems in order. The different forms of MWB described
above and covered in this review are distinct from but re-
lated to emotions. In contrast to MWB, emotions are
situation-specific reactions and relatively short-lived. A
range of emotions with similar valence underlie positive
and negative affect respectively (Ashkanasy & Dorris,
2017). Day-to-day emotional experiences can be seen as
microfoundations of MWB; they underpin and aggregate
up to more general, longer-lasting experiences of distress
and (hedonic) well-being. Studies exploring emotions as
microfoundations of MWB are included in the review. Yet
emotions are an important research area in their own right
(Ashkanasy & Dorris, 2017), including in entrepreneurship
(Cardon, Foo, Shepherd, & Wiklund, 2012). A review of
research on emotions and entrepreneurship falls outside
the scope of this review. 4See https://journals.aom.org/doi/10.5465/amp.2017.0001.
292 AugustAcademy of Management Perspectives
1984). Occupational health and psychological research
has established the detrimental effects of these stressors
for employeesMWB (Hausser, Mojzisch, Niesel, &
Schulz-Hardt, 2010; Humphrey, Nahrgang, &
Morgeson, 2007; Parker, 2014) and expects similar
effects on entrepreneursMWB.
Entrepreneurs are also seen to have significantly
higher autonomy, or job control, than employees.
They can choose the type and content of their work,
have freedom over how to organize and schedule
their tasks, and have no superiors to answer to. High
autonomy can shape how job stressors are experi-
enced, namely as less threatening, stressful, or
straining (Hausser et al., 2010). For example, high
autonomy allows one to alleviate time pressure by
rescheduling tasks. Research on employees links job
autonomy with eudaimonic well-being because it
allows individuals to focus on meaningful activities
that develop their skills (Parker, 2014). The eco-
nomic perspective similarly highlights autonomy as
both a key benefit of entrepreneurship that attracts in-
dividuals to become entrepreneurs and a source of well-
being (cf. procedural utility,5e.g., Benz & Frey, 2004).
Occupational health and psychological research
also draws attention to social stressors and resources
as important working conditions influencing MWB
(Karasek & Theorell, 1990). Social support from su-
pervisors and colleagues is a key source of em-
ployeeswell-being (Luchman & Gonz´
alez-Morales,
2013) but is rarely available to entrepreneurs, who
have no superiors and far fewer, if any, colleagues
(co-entrepreneurs). Entrepreneurswork may there-
fore be relatively lonely, lacking important sources
of work-related social support, which is likely det-
rimental to their MWB.
Finally, entrepreneurs differ from salaried em-
ployees in their personality traits, especially in traits
such as self-efficacy, need for achievement (see Frese
& Gielnik, 2014, for an overview), and psychological
capital (Baron, Franklin, & Hmieleski, 2016). Thus,
rather than being a direct result of their work, en-
trepreneursMWB may be a reflection of self-
selection processes (Baron et al., 2016), such as
those described in the attraction-selection-attrition
framework (Schneider, 1987). Individuals who are
more stress-resistant may elect to start businesses
and are likely to be reinforced in their choice by
stakeholders (e.g., investors). In turn, they are likely
to persist as entrepreneurs because they are able to
cope with the high demands of their work.
Researchers often focus on aspects of the above
arguments to suggest MWB benefits or costs for en-
trepreneurs. This fragmentation means that it is dif-
ficult to know what we currently understand about
entrepreneursMWB, what factors give rise to it, and
its consequences. Hence this review takes stock of
the evidence across different perspectives.
REVIEW METHOD AND OVERVIEW OF
REVIEWED STUDIES
I followed the systematic review procedure
(Tranfield et al., 2003). First, I used Web of Science to
retrieve sources. Web of Science covers research
across disciplines (management, medicine, epide-
miology, occupational health, economics, and psy-
chology) in which relevant evidence is likely to be
published. It also includes conference proceedings
to access research before it is formally published. I
used a range of keywords, specifying entrepreneurs
and self-employed combined with search terms for
MWB and its spectrum of facets, ranging from dis-
orders and distress to well-being. The full set of 67
search terms is available upon request. I searched in
abstracts, titles, and keywords, and included sources
published between 1950 and June 2017. The
searches retrieved 2,121 results (in June 2017).
Second, I coded these results for inclusion in the
review, based on reading the title and abstract.
Sources were considered relevant if they explored
the MWB of entrepreneurs by, for example, identi-
fying predictors of entrepreneursMWB or exploring
its consequences. When no definite exclusion de-
cision could be made, I erred on the side of including
a source for further evaluation. This narrowed the
search results to 301 sources.
Third, I read the 301 papers in detail and coded
their research design, nature of the sample, country
of data collection, theoretical approach, disciplinary
background, and key findings, as well as the concept
and measure of MWB.
Sources were excluded in steps 2 and 3 if they
mentioned well-being but referred exclusively to
economic well-being, or if they mentioned that en-
trepreneurs were not part of the sample. I also ex-
cluded studies that did not present separate results
for entrepreneurs, such as when managers and en-
trepreneurs were treated as one group. To keep the
review manageable, I focused on explanatory studies
that offered insights into antecedents or conse-
quences of entrepreneursMWB, and on empirical
5Procedural utility suggests that people do not care only
about instrumental outcomes (e.g., income) but also value
the way they obtain outcomes (e.g., having a say over how
to conduct their work, or job autonomy).
2018 293Stephan
studies. I included studies that compared entrepre-
neurs and employees only if they offered an empir-
ical explanation for MWB differencesfor instance,
by measuring autonomy or personality traits. I ex-
cluded studies that merely described the MWB
levels of entrepreneurs and employees. I also ex-
cluded studies of social enterprises offering mental
health provision.
Fourth, I conducted reference searches. I retrieved
references that were mentioned in the sources but
not yet included in the review. I also scanned the
advance online publications and papers published
in the leading entrepreneurship journals (Journal of
Business Venturing,Entrepreneurship Theory and
Practice) in the last five years. Overall, I identified
144 relevant sources. Of these, three were conference
proceedings, one was a book chapter, and the re-
mainder were journal publications.
Before delving into the findings, I provide an
overview to illustrate how past research has studied
entrepreneursMWB. The dominant research ap-
proach in the 144 studies was survey-based quanti-
tative (90%, 8% qualitative, 3% mixed-method). The
studies mainly focused on individuals (92%) as the
level of analysis and employed cross-sectional (67%)
or longitudinal/lagged research designs (25%).
Three percent (five studies) were interventions or
randomized control trials. Another three studies
were diary/experience-sampling studies, two were
case studies, and one was an ethnography. In term s of
levels of analysis other than the individual, 2%
(three studies) focused on the family and 2% on
within-individual variation, and 2% were multilevel
studies considering individuals in their country
contexts. One percent (two studies) were conducted
on the country level of analysis.6
With regards to measures of MWB, 39% of the 144
studies included measures of mental ill-being (e.g.,
distress, mental health complaints, burnout, mental
disorders), 39% measured well-being (e.g., life satis-
faction, happiness, job satisfaction), a further 15%
measured both ill- and well-being in the same study,
and 7% captured other measures (e.g., quality-of-life
measures that contain aspects of both psychologi-
cal and physical MWB). Just over half (53%) of the
studies included measures of general MWB (e.g., life
satisfaction or general distress), 27% included work-
related well-being measures (e.g., job satisfaction or
work-related distress), 19% included measures of
both, and 1% included other measures.
I classified the primary disciplinary approach
based on the studys theoretical background in
combination with the journal where it was pub-
lished. The disciplinary approaches were psychol-
ogy (23%), occupational health and medicine (22%),
entrepreneurship (18%), economics (16%), man-
agement (12.5%), and other social sciences (8.5%).
Synthesis and Analysis of Review Findings
As noted above, I coded all studies in detail for
a range of characteristics. This allowed me, in the
first instance, to cluster studies by their primary re-
search question. Sixteen studies explored MWB
across different types of entrepreneur, 105 studies
investigated antecedents of MWB, and 28 studies
explored the consequences of MWB. Five of the 144
studies provided information on two research ques-
tions simultaneously. A summary of the coding tables
and each study is included in the online supplement.
Tables A1, A2, and A3 list all the studies on MWB and
types of entrepreneurs, on antecedents of entrepre-
neursMWB, and on MBW consequences respectively.
To synthesize findings in each of the three areas, I
engaged in qualitative coding and abduction. For
instance, I identified common clusters of anteced-
ents of MWB guided by my knowledge about work,
social, and personality characteristics as possible
antecedents of entrepreneursMWB as well as by
the data (i.e., the findings that emerged from the
individual studies in the review). An example of
data-driven/inductive coding is the fact that new
categories of stressors and resources started to emerge
from the studies. These included firm characteristics
such as financial situation, the physical environ-
ment, and context characteristics (e.g., the level of
competition, the business climate, and cultural as-
pects). The coding also revealed greater differentia-
tion of personal characteristics such as human
capital and values, in addition to traits. I similarly
employed qualitative coding and abduction to clus-
ter studies on the different consequences of entre-
preneursMWB, and on the types of entrepreneurs
and their MWB.
REVIEW FINDINGS
The findings are presented along the three primary
research questions that emerged from the coding of
studies: (1) Does MWB differ by type of entrepre-
neur? (2) What are the antecedents of entrepreneurs
6Some of the percentage figures do not add up to 100%
due to rounding. Exact figures are available from the
author.
294 AugustAcademy of Management Perspectives
MWB? (3) What are the consequences of entrepre-
neursMWB? Figure 1 provides a visual mapping of
the review findings, including the general concepts
studied as antecedents and consequences of MWB
in the 144 studies. Tables 1 and 2 (below) map the
specific antecedents and consequences studied,
their relationship with MWB in the reviewed stud-
ies, and the frequency and number of high-quality
studies, as well as notes on unexpected findings.
Prelude: MWB and Types of Entrepreneur
Sixteen studies investigated whether different
types of entrepreneur are better offin terms of
MWB. These studies are largely descriptive and their
findings consistent. Entrepreneurs who may be
broadly characterized as opportunity entrepreneurs
experienced higher MWB than necessity entrepre-
neurs (see Table 1A in the online supplement for the
list of individual studies). With one exception,7all
studies found that opportunity entrepreneurs were
happier and less distressed than necessity entrepre-
neurs. One study across 74 countries suggests a sim-
ilarly positive relationship between national rates of
opportunity entrepreneurship and life satisfaction
(Naud´
e, Amor´
os, & Cristi, 2014).
The MWB benefits of being an opportunity entre-
preneur rather than a necessity entrepreneur were
evident in both cross-sectional and longitudinal
studies (all studies were based on random representa-
tive samples). They held for differing ways of identi-
fying opportunity and necessity entrepreneursfor
instance, based on whether they transitioned into self-
employment from employment or unemployment;
their preferences and desire for self-employment; their
number of employees (or none); and whether they were
skilled or unskilled, ran an incorporated business or
sole proprietorship, were independent or dependent
contractors, or were formally or informally self-
employed. The differences were also robust for differ-
ent types of MWB indicators. The most frequently
studied were life and job satisfaction (five studies),
distress (anxiety, depressive symptoms, burnout; four
studies), suicide mortality (two studies), and subjective
well-being (combining satisfaction and affect; two
studies). Moreover, opportunity entrepreneurs had
higher family and health satisfaction than necessity
entrepreneurs, but both types of entrepreneurs were
equally dissatisfied with the lack of leisure time
(Binder & Coad, 2016; Johansson Sev¨
a, Larsson, &
Strandh, 2016).
To explain these differences, the reviewed studies
referred either to the higher autonomy and deliberate
choice that opportunity versus necessity entrepre-
neurship involved, or to differences in human capi-
tal (education), personality traits, and preferences
(e.g., higher desire for independence or power
among opportunity entrepreneurs) (Binder & Coad,
2016; Petrescu, 2016; Van den Heuvel & Wooden,
1997). While empirical tests were rare, opportunity
entrepreneurs indeed reported more autonomy, and
in one study they experienced growing life, job, and
health satisfaction over the first three years after
starting their firms (Binder & Coad, 2016). This pat-
tern is consistent with the view that the effects of
autonomy take time to unfold (Ford et al., 2014). It is
also consistent with another study that found that
entrepreneurs who are established have higher
MWB than those starting out (Zbierowski, 2014). In
two further studies the MWB differences between
opportunity and necessity entrepreneurs were partly
explained by education (Sikora & Saha, 2009) and by
entrepreneurial traits, desire for independence, and
intrinsic work motivation (Johansson Sev ¨
a, Larsson
et al., 2016). These findings point to possible ante-
cedents of entrepreneursMWB.
Antecedents of EntrepreneursMWB
I present antecedents according to whether they
have positive effects (resources) or negative effects
(in the form of stressors or vulnerabilities) on entre-
preneursMWB. The antecedents studied clustered
into six broad categories: work characteristics (49
studies); personality traits, values, and other per-
sonal resources (53 studies); firm and financial
characteristics (37 studies); social support and
stressors (25 studies); market and country context (26
studies); and physical context (four studies). Table 1
gives an overview of the findings by listing the
characteristics identified in each of the six cate-
gories, how many times they were studied, and
the relationship with entrepreneursMWB. Table 1
also reports the number of studies with stronger re-
search designs (longitudinal, lagged, and experience-
sampling design, as well as experiments). In the
following synthesis of findings I focus on the most
frequently studied characteristics as well as the
7The one exception was a study examining subjective
quality of life (an overall assessment that combines both
mental and physical health). In this study differences
between entrepreneurs with and without employees were
nonsignificant after adjusting for controls (Saarni, Saarni,
& Saarni, 2008). This was the only study that used a mea-
sure of MWB that may be confounded by physical health.
2018 295Stephan
unexpected findings. I privilege studies with stron-
ger research designs to provide examples. Table 2A
in the online supplement lists and summarizes each
study in this stream.
Work characteristics.Work characteristics broadly
describe the nature and organization of entrepreneurs
work tasks and activities (cf. Parker, 2014). Of the
49 studies that included measures of work char-
acteristics, 13 had longitudinal or lagged study de-
signs. Intuitively two features of entrepreneurswork
stand out: Entrepreneurs have high autonomythey
can make decisions about what, when, and with
whom to work (Parker, 2014)and they have stress-
ful jobshigh work demands that require intense ef-
fort and concentration (Karasek, 1979). Autonomy,
also called job control, and work demands are the
two dimensions of the job demandscontrol model
(Karasek, 1979), a well-supported model of work
stress (e.g., Hausser et al., 2010). These two aspects
were also the two most frequently studied work
characteristics in the review, and the pattern of find-
ings (see Table 1) confirms expectations that auton-
omy is positively related and demands are negatively
related to MWB. Two studies found no effect of au-
tonomy and demands on MWB. One was based on
a small sample of N553 (Rau et al., 2008). The other
study was longitudinal, but alongside the measure of
work autonomy it included farm-specific work char-
acteristics that were more powerful predictors of
MWB (Wallis & Dollard, 2008).
Studies investigated two further measures of work
stressors that are closely related to work demands.
For role stress (Kahn, Wolfe, Quinn, Snoek, &
Rosenthal, 1964), six studies consistently showed
negative effects on entrepreneursMWB. For work-
ing hours, one study found that a subset of starting
entrepreneurs were more satisfied with their work if
they experienced high demands and also worked
long hours (Bradley & Roberts, 2004). It was inter-
preted as a signal that the business was doing well. A
FIGURE 1
Overview of Research on EntrepreneursMWB: Research Streams and Examples of Concepts Studied
(number of studies in brackets)
Type of entrepreneur (16 studies)
Antecedents (105 studies)
Social resources and stressors (25)
Resources: social support from
family and peers, feedback from
clients
Demands: family and work-to-
family conflict, customer &
employee conflicts
Work characteristics (49)
Resources: autonomy, flexibility,
significance
Stressors: demand, working hours,
role stressors
Personal resources and
vulnerabilities (53)
Personality traits
Human capital
Values and motivations
Firm and financial characteristics (37)
Resources: income, subjective
financial success, firm size
Demands: financial problems, job
insecurity and uncertainty
Outcomes
(28 studies)
Collective
outcomes (1)
Persistence (7)
Entrepreneurs’
stress and
health (2)
Firm
performance (8)
Entrepreneurs’
family (3)
Mental Health and Well-Being
Continuum
Well-being and high quality of life
Ill-being and low quality of life
Mental disorder
(impairment of daily
functioning)
Eudaimonic well-being
(optimal functioning)
Hedonic well-being
(e.g., happy, satisfied,
content)
Psychological distress
(e.g., sad, anxious, tense)
Antecedent: Market and Country Context (25 studies)
Stream 1
Stream 2 Stream 3
Opportunity
recognition (5),
work behaviors
(5)
Physical environment (4)
296 AugustAcademy of Management Perspectives
TABLE 1
Overview of Review Findings on the Antecedents of EntrepreneursMental Health and Well-Being
Effect on MWB Total N of
studies
N stronger
research designs
a
NotesAntecedent 10Other
Work characteristics
b
49 13
Resources
Autonomy 18* 2** 20 4 *In Parslow et al. (2004) autonomy
had a positive effect only for self-
employed women, not for self-
employed men. **See
manuscript text.
Time flexibility 3 1* 40 *No effect when considered
alongside autonomy in
Parasuraman and Simmers
(2001), but additional positive
effect alongside autonomy in
Hundley (2001) and Alvarez and
Sinde-Cantorna (2014).
Skill utilization 2 1* 31 *No effect in Wallis and Dollard
(2008); farm-specific resources
explained MWB instead.
Significance/meaningfulness 5 2* 70 *Two studies report findings
suggestive of inverse U
relationship; see manuscript
text.
Variety/interesting work 4 41
Task identity 1 10
Feedback 2 20
Positive work resources 1 11 Qualitative coded resources in
Lechat and Torr`
es (2017).
Stressors
Demands 1* 2** 19 22 7 *Positive effect for new
entrepreneurs: Demands
seemed to signal that the
business is going well (Bradley &
Roberts, 2004).
**See manuscript text.
Role stressors 6 62
Long/intense working hours 2* 1 8 2 13 3 *See manuscript text for positive
effects and discussion of
recovery effects.
Personal characteristics
b
53 14
Traits 27 8
Resources
Psychological capital 4 41 Two studies investigated the
psychological capital construct;
one study each investigated
constituent traits (hope, self-
esteem).
Self-efficacy 3 1* 42 *See manuscript text.
Optimism 1 1* 1* 32 *See manuscript text.
Emotional intelligence/trait
emotion regulation
312*61 *Emotional intelligence mitigates
the negative effects of fear of
failure (Bahmannia et al., 2013);
affect spin, as an emotional
experience pattern that requires
emotion-regulation resources, is
related to distress (Uy et al.,
2017).
2018 297Stephan
TABLE 1
(Continued)
Effect on MWB Total N of
studies
N stronger
research designs
a
NotesAntecedent 10Other
Coping 4 41 See manuscript text for distinct
effects of different copying
styles.
Internal locus of control 3* 31 *Indirect effect of internal locus of
control on distress via role stress
in one study (Wincent &
¨
Ortqvist, 2009).
Risk tolerance 2 20
Three Big 5 traits: agreeableness,
extroversion,
conscientiousness
220 No relationships for openness to
experience (Berglund,
Johansson Sev¨
a, & Strandh,
2016; Morrison, 1997); for
emotional stability see findings
below for neuroticism.
Innovativeness 2 20
Positive affect 1 11
Vulnerabilities
Neuroticism, negative or
depressed affect
51* 61 *Being emotionally unstable was
recognized by entrepreneurs
themselves as a vulnerability
(Ahmad & Arabia, 2010).
Fear of failure 1 10
Human capital 13 5
Resources
Stress/self-management skills 2 22
Business and entrepreneurial
skills
12*31 *Lack of business skill recognized
by entrepreneurs as stressor
(Ahmad & Arabia, 2010; Vaag
et al., 2014).
Entrepreneurship/leadership
experience
11240 See manuscript text for
explanation of mixed results.
Education 1 2 2* 52 * Higher education mitigated the
negative effect of financial
problems on well-being (Annink
et al., 2016); perceived
mismatch between highest
degree and current work was
associated with lower work
satisfaction (Bender & Roche,
2013).
Values and motivations 12 0
Resources
Specific intrinsic values 5 50 Intrinsic values include values of
autonomy, creativity, and well-
being.
General intrinsic motivation 6 60 Includes valuing nonfinancial
success.
Meeting own expectations and
goals
330
Valuing achievement 1 10
Vulnerability
Valuing financial success,
money and extrinsic motives
330
298 AugustAcademy of Management Perspectives
TABLE 1
(Continued)
Effect on MWB Total N of
studies
N stronger
research designs
a
NotesAntecedent 10Other
Other personal characteristics 8 2
Physical health and health
behaviors
51* 61 *One longitudinal study found no
relationship between height as
a proxy for good physical health
and entrepreneursMWB
(Rietveld, Hessels, & Van der
Zwan, 2015).
Immigrant entrepreneur 2 21
Firm and financial characteristics
b
37 15
Resources
Financial rewards/income 6 62
Perceived firm success 5* 1** 61 * Measured in one study as
entrepreneur reports of firm
productivity (Sherman, Randall,
& Kauanui, 2016).
** Qualitative research; see
manuscript text.
Objective firm performance 1* 1* 21 *See manuscript text for
explanation.
Number of employees 3 1* 43 *See manuscript text for
explanation.
Financial resources (loan) 1* 1 22 *See manuscript text for
explanation.
Stressors
Financial problems 1 7 1 84 See manuscript text for detailed
findings.
Low pay/income 3 30
Job loss 5 54 Includes studies on
unemployment and retirement.
Job insecurity/uncertainty 5 51
Other 2* 20 *Income uncertainty and
perceived financial
responsibility (for self and
family) identified as stressors in
qualitative studies (Schonfeld &
Mazzola, 2015; S¨
orensson &
Dalborg, 2017).
Social resources and stressors
b
25 6
Resources
Social support/low loneliness 11 2* 13 3 *Moderating effect of social
capital: Social capital mitigates
the negative effect of fear of
failure on work stress in
nonfamily-owned businesses
(Bahmannia et al., 2013). Work-
related social support buffered
the effect of exhaustion on job
satisfaction (no effect of
exhaustion when work-related
support was available; Tetrick
et al., 2000).
Workfamily enrichment (WFE) 3 31
2018 299Stephan
TABLE 1
(Continued)
Effect on MWB Total N of
studies
N stronger
research designs
a
NotesAntecedent 10Other
Positive feedback from
customers
2* 21 *Feedback from clients emerged as
source of MWB in qualitative
studies (Anderson & Hughes,
2010; Lechat & Torr`
es, 2017).
Stressors
Workfamily conflict (WFC) 8 1* 92 *Negative effect of WFC on MWB
for women entrepreneurs only.
Family conflicts 1 10
Customer & employee conflicts 2 21
Partner control 1 10
Responsibility for people at work 1 10
Context characteristics
b
25 6
Business climate/ market demand 2 3 52
Economic recession 1 3 40
High levels of market competition 2 22
Societal esteem of entrepreneurs 2 1* 30 *Moderating effect; see
manuscript text.
Regulation 1 1 20 Regulation to enhance
competitiveness was positively
related to entrepreneursMWB
across countries (Cu´
ellar-
Molina, Lucia-Casademunt, &
Garcia-Cabrera, 2015), but
individual entrepreneurs
experienced regulation as strain
on MWB (Kallioniemi et al.,
2016).
Shock 1 4 52 See manuscript text.
Other 6 60 EntrepreneursMWB varies across
countries (Benz & Frey, 2008;
Schneck, 2014) and industries
(Rau et al., 2008). Labor market
flexibilization affects
entrepreneursMWB less than
employeesMWB (Obschonka &
Silbereisen, 2015). Social and
religious obligations in the
community were stressors for
female entrepreneurs (Ugwu
et al., 2016). Country differences
in unemployment insurance and
social trust moderated the
effects of financial hardships on
MWB (Annink et al., 2016).
Physical environment
b
40
Resource
Being in nature 1 10
Stressor
Physical demands, workload &
danger
440
Notes:
aLongitudinal, lagged, experimental, experience sampling studies
bIndividual studies may contain information on more than one characteristic. Hence, the total number of studies for a cluster of charac-
teristics may be smaller than the sum of studies across each of the individual characteristics.
*and ** are explained in the last column for each row.
300 AugustAcademy of Management Perspectives
large cross-country study also found a positive as-
sociation of longer working hours with higher MWB
(Mill´
an, Hessels, Thurik, & Aguado, 2013). These
mixed findings suggest that entrepreneurs can ap-
praise long working hours as a challenge stressor
that is, as a stressor that is perceived to entail oppor-
tunities for future achievement (Podsakoff, LePine,
& LePine, 2007; see also discussion section).
Among the studies investigating working hours,
four referred to recovery processes, understood as
the processes of recuperating from work demands
through detachment from work and engagement in
leisure activities (Sonnentag & Fritz, 2015). Two
found that taking time off from work enhanced en-
trepreneursMWB (cross-sectionally for the length of
vacation time, Rau et al., 2008, and when comparing
entrepreneursMWB before and after a recovery
retreat, Vesala & Tuomivaara, 2015). Entrepre-
neurs themselves also considered vacation time as
a resource for their well-being in a qualitative study
(Lechat & Torr`
es, 2017). In another cross-sectional
study, long working hours were no longer related to
entrepreneursMWB when recovery processes were
also taken into account. Entrepreneurs who were able
to mentally detach from work in their leisure time
were unaffected by working long hours (Taris, Geurts,
Schaufeli, Blonk, & Lagerveld, 2008).
With regard to other work resources, time flexi-
bility had the expected positive effects on MWB even
when considered alongside autonomy, with which it
overlaps (see Table 1 for details). The ability to make
use of ones skills at work (skill utilization) also
tended to have positive effects (see Table 1 for de-
tails). The remainder of the work resources considered
were features that describe motivating work settings in
the job characteristics model (JCM, Hackman &
Oldham, 1975; autonomy is also contained in this
model). These features are the significance or mean-
ingfulness of work, how interesting and varied the work
is, how coherent it is (task identity), and whether work
offers an opportunity for feedback on ones actions and
thus opportunities to learn. Two studies were explicitly
based on the JCM and supported these relationships,
except for task identity (Hytti, Kautonen, & Akola, 2013;
Schjoedt, 2009). Other studies investigated individual
JCM features and also found the expected positive ef-
fects (see Table 1). Yet two qualitative studies suggest
that work can become too significant to entrepreneurs
and all-consuming, which implies an inverse-U shaped
relationship of meaningfulness with MWB (Fisher,
Maritz, & Lobo, 2013; Spivack, McKelvie, & Haynie,
2014)an intriguing avenue for future research (see
discussion section).
Studies that included samples of salaried employees
consistently found that entrepreneurs reported higher
autonomy. This was true for both opportunity and
necessity entrepreneurs, although the former re-
ported the highest level of autonomy (Johansson
Sev¨
a, Larsson et al., 2016). Autonomy, sometimes
alongside other work characteristics, explained the
majority (Benz & Frey, 2008) or all of the difference
in work satisfaction between entrepreneurs and em-
ployees (Hytti et al., 2013; Prottas & Thompson, 2006).
Studies of work characteristics imply a malleable
view of entrepreneursMWB, which contrasts with the
self-selection view of the personality perspective
(Baron et al., 2016). Research combining personality
and work characteristics would allow testing of com-
peting explanations of selection versus work charac-
teristics, but such research is sparse. Studies in the
review that explored both work and personality sug-
gest that the two explanations are compatible, and that
they interact to shape entrepreneursMWB. Lange
(2012) found that work autonomy accounted for the
MWB differences between entrepreneurs and em-
ployees when controlling for differences in personality
traits and values. Although cross-sectional, this study
suggests that work characteristics help explain MWB
benefits in addition to self-selection effects. In a diary
study over 25 weeks, Totterdell, Wood, and Wall
(2006) found that weekly variations in autonomy
and demand predicted changes in entrepreneurs
MWB (distress). Trait optimism moderated these
effects. It further boosted the beneficial effects of
high autonomy/high demand work (the so-called
active job), while pessimism worsened the effects of
high-strain jobs (low autonomy/high demand).
Personal characteristics. Of the 53 studies that
included measures of personal resources and vul-
nerabilities, 14 employed stronger research designs
(longitudinal, lagged, experimental, or experience
sampling). Most frequently studied were personality
traits (27 studies), followed by human capital (education
and specific skills; 13 studies), entrepreneursvalues
and motivations (12 studies), and other personal char-
acteristics (eight studies). See Table 1 for an overview.
Personality traits. Most studies investigated per-
sonality traits as resources that would enhance entre-
preneursMWB. Table 1 shows the range of different
traits studied, including psychological capital traits, traits
associated with entrepreneurship such as risk-taking and
internal locus of control, and the Big Five personality
traits (e.g., Baron et al., 2016; Przepiorka, 2017). They
showed overwhelmingly the expected beneficial effects
on entrepreneursMWB (see Table 1), including in the
2018 301Stephan
rare longitudinal and lagged studies (Laguna, Razmus,
&
˙
Zali´
nski, 2017; Roche, Haar, & Luthans, 2014).
There are a small number of exceptions to this pat-
tern. These point to inverse-Ushaped relationships or
optimum levelsbeyond which even traits that are
widely considered to be resources for personal well-
being (self-efficacy and optimism) can have negative
effects. In one study, self-efficacy moderated the effect of
entrepreneursimprovisational behavior on their work
satisfaction (Hmieleski & Corbett, 2008). Entrepreneurs
who were both highly self-efficacious and engaged in
improvisation were least satisfied, even though further
results suggested that they were also the ones leading the
most dynamically growing companies. These entrepre-
neurs may have been overexerting themselves. Similarly,
one longitudinal study found that optimism can lead to
lower MWB in the longer term when overly positive
expectations do not materialize (Dawson, 2017). High
levels of optimism before starting a business led to lower
work satisfaction and lower satisfaction with pay once
the individual became an entrepreneur. Yet in the shorter
term, optimism benefited entrepreneursMWB, as re-
ported in a 25-week diary study (Totterdell et al., 2006)
and in a cross-sectional study on samples from 19 Eu-
ropean countries (Lange, 2012).
Coping styles were investigated as habitual ap-
proaches to dealing with challenging situations.
All studies found the expected positive effects of
problem-focused and related proactive coping styles
on MWB (e.g., Drnovˇ
sek, ¨
Ortqvist, & Wincent, 2010;
M¨
uller & Gappisch, 2005). Two studies additionally
pointed to the functionality of emotion-focused
coping styles to enhance MWB (Patzelt & Shepherd,
2011; Uy, Foo, & Song, 2013).
In terms of vulnerabilities, neuroticism and related
constructs of trait negative affect expectedly reduced
entrepreneursMWB in all five studies that in-
vestigated this relationship (e.g., Bradley & Roberts,
2004; Morrison, 1997). Entrepreneurs who were high
in fear of failure also had lower MWB in one study
(Bahmannia, Tharan, & Wang, 2013).
Human capital. Human capital describes the skills
acquired through experience and education (Becker,
1964). Due to their broader skill set, individuals with
high human capital should be better able to cope with
the demands of entrepreneurial work. Indeed, entre-
preneurs reported that they experience their low or
deficient business and entrepreneurial skills as stress-
ful (Ahmad & Arabia, 2010; Vaag, Giæver, & Bjerkeset,
2014). One study investigated the effect of business
skills on MWB in a randomized control trial with
microfinance entrepreneurs. Business skills training,
whether on its own or in combination with the
provision of longer-term access to finance, had positive
effects on the MWB of male entrepreneurs (Berge,
Bjorvatn, & Tungodden, 2015).8
The effects of stress- and self-management skills on
entrepreneursMWB were positive in two studies. This
included a randomized control trial on entrepreneurs
who were on sick leave due to mental health issues,
training them in self- and stress management (Blonk,
Brenninkmeijer, Lagerveld, & Houtman, 2006). By
comparison the effects of past experience were not clear
cut (see Table 1), likely because the measures of expe-
rience were coarse and typically considered the length
rather than the quality of the experience. A case in point
is a cross-sectional study in which the MWB of entre-
preneurs was negatively related to the number of times
they had failed with past businesses (Zhang, Chen, Li, &
Zhou, 2016).
The findings for education were ambivalent (see
Table 1) even in two longitudinal studies. It is likely
that two countervailing processes are at work: The
broader skill set associated with education can indeed
yield MWB benefits (Mill´
an et al., 2013), but at the
same time, better education entails higher opportunity
costs for the entrepreneur. Highly educated entrepre-
neurs are able to achieve significant income in paid
employment. Such comparison processes may make
highly educated entrepreneurs relatively less satisfied
with their work. Dawsons (2017) longitudinal study is
consistent with this explanation. The highly educated
entrepreneurs reported lower satisfaction with both
their work and their pay than did less well-educated
entrepreneurs. Kwon and Sohns (2017) study suggests
that the negative MWB impact of opportunity cost
considerations is particularly salient in emerging
economies where employed work is held in higher
social esteem than entrepreneurship. In their study in
Indonesia, the most highly skilled self-employed were
least satisfied with their work, and, conversely, those
with the lowest qualifications were most satisfied.
Personal values and motivations. Values and mo-
tivations refer to general and specific goals that ener-
gize actions. Thus they describe why people engage in
actions, while personality traits describe how people
typicallyact (Roccas, Sagiv, Schwartz, & Knafo, 2002).
All 12 studies that related entrepreneursmotivations
8For female entrepreneurs the effects were nonsignifi-
cant. This is probably due to a combination of factors, in-
cluding the fact that their husbands exerted control over
their businesses and earnings. Womens lower willingness
to compete may also play a role, as may the extent to which
their expectations of the intervention were disappointed
(Berge et al., 2015).
302 AugustAcademy of Management Perspectives
and values to their MWB are cross-sectional, hence
the findings are best described as correlates of entre-
preneursMWB. Table 1 shows a consistent pattern
that is in line with extant motivational theories such
as self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000).
Entrepreneurs who were driven by intrinsic motiva-
tions (both general and specific intrinsic values)
exhibited higher MWB than those motivated by ex-
trinsic factors such as financial success. At the same
time, achieving the goals the entrepreneurs had set
for themselves was also positively associated with
higher MWB.
Other personal characteristics. Studies investi-
gated a range of other personal characteristics, and to
detail the findings for all of them (often included as
control variables in regressions) would go beyond
the scope of the review. Two findings are note-
worthy, however: Better physical health and health
maintenance behaviors (e.g., exercise) were posi-
tively related to entrepreneursMWB. Being an im-
migrant entrepreneur also had MWB benefits in two
studies, including in one longitudinal study, which
additionally suggested that these benefits may be-
come smaller for subsequent generations (Clark,
Colombier, & Masclet, 2008).
Firm and financial characteristics. Firm and fi-
nancial characteristics were considered as both ob-
jective and subjective resources and stressors (e.g.,
perceptions of firm success, income uncertainty, and
financial problems). Subjective perceptions of suc-
cess can be more decisive for entrepreneursaction
than objective factors (Gimeno, Folta, Cooper, &
Woo, 1997), a finding that plays out in the reviewed
studies. Of the 37 studies investigating firm and fi-
nancial characteristics, 15 had stronger research
designs (see Table 1).
Firm and financial resources. Overall the effects
of personal financial rewards and perceived firm
success on entrepreneursMWB were positive, while
the MWB effects of objective indicators of firm per-
formance, size, and financial resources were more
nuanced.
Income and related financial rewards derived
from the firm related positively to entrepreneurs
MWB in all studies that investigated such rewards,
including in longitudinal studies (Dawson, 2017;
Mill´
an et al., 2013). Moreover, entrepreneurssub-
jectively perceived firm success was positively re-
lated to their MWB in five cross-sectional studies.
Similarly, in qualitative research, entrepreneurs
named firm performance, growth, and success as
important sources of their MWB (Lechat & Torr`
es,
2017).
Only two studies investigated objective firm per-
formance, and they failed to establish the expected
positive effects. In a cross-sectional study, those en-
trepreneurs whose firms were performing well ex-
perienced lower well-being and leisure satisfaction,
although they were highly satisfied with their in-
come (Carree & Verheul, 2012). This points to im-
portant trade-offs across well-being domains. In
a longitudinal study, business ownersmental re-
covery after a disaster was unrelated to the economic
performance of their firms (De Mel, McKenzie, &
Woodruff, 2008). At the same time, entrepreneurs
leading larger firms (with a higher number of em-
ployees) reported higher well-being in three studies.
It is worth noting that one longitudinal study paints
a more nuanced picture by also considering work
characteristics: Entrepreneurs with employees ex-
perienced higher work demands than those without
employees, which in turn increased their level of
distress (Hessels, Rietveld, & Van der Zwan, 2017).
In line with the rationale that the effect of firm
resources is mediated by subjective experiences, two
randomized control trials did not find positive ef-
fects of the availability of financial resources on
micro-credit entrepreneursMWB. Indeed, entre-
preneurswell-being declined slightly and distress
increased in the treatment group receiving loans,
because the expansion of business activities in-
creased entrepreneursworkload (Karlan & Zinman,
2011). Similarly, the effect of obtaining long-term
finance on the happiness of entrepreneurs was con-
tingent upon also receiving business skills training,
in part because of the boost to the entrepreneurs
confidence (Berge et al., 2015).
Firm and financial stressors. All studies that in-
vestigated firm financial problems found that these
lowered entrepreneursMWB (see Table 1). This was
the case for all cross-sectional (Annink, Gorgievski, &
Den Dulk, 2016; Kallioniemi, Simola, Kaseva, &
Kym¨
al¨
ainen, 2016; Kallioniemi, Simola, Kym¨
al¨
ainen,
Vesala, & Louhelainen, 2009; Torp, Syse, Paraponaris,
& Gudbergsson, 2017) and two longitudinal stud-
ies (over three years, Gorgievski, Bakker, Schaufeli,
Van der Veen, & Giesen, 2010, and one year, Wallis
& Dollard, 2008). The exception was a study of
a smaller sample of 91 farmers over 10 years
(Gorgievski-Duijvesteijin, Giesen, & Bakker, 2000).
Entrepreneurs also perceived financial problems as
a key stressor in a qualitative study (Lechat & Torr `
es,
2016). Equally, three related studies found consis-
tently that entrepreneurs with low income had lower
MWB (Anderson & Hughes, 2010; DAngelo et al.,
2016; Kwon & Sohn, 2017).
2018 303Stephan
The effects of financial problems and low pay
seem to go beyond their material impacts. Entrepre-
neurs appear to perceive financial problems and
poor venture performance as a threat to their self-
image and even their identity. Studies investigating
job loss and job insecurity/uncertainty are consistent
with such a view. They found the expected negative
effects on entrepreneursMWB, but also that entre-
preneurs suffered significantly more distress from
job loss, the threat of job loss, and periods of un-
employment than did comparable groups of em-
ployees (e.g., in two longitudinal studies: Backhans
& Hemmingsson, 2012; Hetschko, 2016). Identity
shifts and intense feeling of loss occurred even for
entrepreneurs who voluntarily retired from their
firms (Byrnes & Taylor, 2015). Conversely, a longi-
tudinal study found that entrepreneurs who delayed
retirement had a lower risk of developing dementia
(Dufouil et al., 2014).
Social resources and stressors. Of the 25 studies
that investigated social support, six had stronger re-
search designs (see Table 1). Social relationships are
an important source of MWB, and the review shows
that this is no different for entrepreneurs despite
the fact that they have far fewer sources of work-
related social support than employees (Rahim, 1996;
Tetrick, Slack, Da Silva, & Sinclair, 2000). In a lon-
gitudinal study, Fernet, Torr `
es, Austin, and St-Pierre
(2016) found that entrepreneurs who were lonely
and socially isolated were more likely to develop
burnout. When available, social support from
others at work and from their family was consis-
tently positively related to entrepreneursMWB in
cross-sectional and longitudinal studies (Nguyen &
Sawang, 2016; Totterdell et al., 2006). In two cross-
sectional studies, social support moderated (miti-
gated) the effect of other stressors and negative
emotional experiences on MWB (Bahmannia et al.,
2013; Tetrick et al., 2000).
Eleven studies investigated how entrepreneurs
balance their family roles with their work. More
studies investigated workfamily conflict than
workfamily enrichment (see Table 1). Workfamily
conflict affected entrepreneursMWB negatively
in all nine studies investigating it, including in a
longitudinal study (Nguyen & Sawang, 2016). A
randomized control trial found a negative effect of
workfamily conflict only for female entrepreneurs
(Berge et al., 2015). Three further studies were
based solely on samples of female entrepreneurs
(Anderson & Hughes, 2010; McLellan & Uys, 2009;
Ugwu, Orjiakor, Enwereuzor, Onyedibe, & Ugwu,
2016). A further cross-sectional study separately
identified family conflicts as an additional stressor
for entrepreneurs (Kallioniemi et al., 2009). More
specifically, a study of female entrepreneurs in
Tanzania identified their partnerscontrol over their
finances and business as a limiting factor for their
MWB (Dutt, Grabe, & Castro, 2016). Interestingly,
this was much less the case for collective entrepre-
neurship in the form of a co-operative, which pro-
vided these women with important peer social
support from fellow entrepreneurs. Finally, work
family enrichment was part of three studies that also
investigated workfamily conflict (McLellan & Uys,
2009; Nguyen & Sawang, 2016; Ugwu et al., 2016). It
had consistent positive effects on entrepreneursMWB.
The qualitative studies in the review also pointed
to new and overlooked social resources and
stressors. This includes positive feedback from cus-
tomers as a resource boosting entrepreneursMWB
(Anderson & Hughes, 2010; Lechat & Torr `
es, 2017)
and conflicts with customers and employees as
a significant and frequent social stressor straining
entrepreneursMWB (Lechat & Torr`
es, 2016;
Schonfeld & Mazzola, 2015). One cross-sectional
study uniquely identified entrepreneursfelt re-
sponsibility for people at work as a strain on their
MWB (Begley, 1994).
Context characteristics. Twenty-five studies (six
with stronger research designs) investigated dif-
ferent layers of context. These included the local
business climate, the level of societal esteem of en-
trepreneurs, and the impact of shocks (see Table 1).
The business climate (or level of demand in the
market) was the subject of five studies. A further four
studies investigated the related effects of economic
recession, and two studied the effect of market
competition. Collectively these 11 studies provide
evidence that entrepreneursMWB is shaped by the
wider market and economic environment. More
specifically, objective measures of economic growth
(Johansson Sev¨
a, Vinberg, Nordenmark, & Strandh,
2016) and favorable business climate (Jiang, Lu, & Lu,
2017) affected entrepreneursMWB positively. En-
trepreneurs themselves highlighted the stressful ef-
fects of low customer demand in three qualitative
studies (Lechat & Torr`
es, 2016, 2017; Schonfeld &
Mazzola, 2015). Another three studies examined the
effects of the recession triggered by the 2008 finan-
cial crisis. One study across 20 European countries
did not find a link with entrepreneursrisk of de-
veloping depression (Buffel, De Velde, & Bracke,
2015). Yet two studies from Spain (a country that was
strongly affected by the crisis) found expected
changes in entrepreneursMWB due to the crisis
304 AugustAcademy of Management Perspectives
(Cueto & Pruneda, 2017, based on annual labor force
surveys; Real et al., 2016, based on records of di-
agnosed mental disorders). Likewise, a study in
China found that a local recession dampened entre-
preneursMWB (Jiang et al., 2017). Finally, strong
market competition strained entrepreneursMWB
in two longitudinal studies, both directly (Wallis
& Dollard, 2008) and indirectly through increasing
role stress (Wincent & ¨
Ortqvist, 2009).
Turning to cultural factors, two cross-sectional
studies suggest that the lack of societal esteem for
entrepreneurs diminishes their MWB (Kallioniemi
et al., 2016; Kwon & Sohn, 2017). Yet a supportive
societal context can also make failing more difficult.
Entrepreneurs whose businesses had failed in the
past had lower MWB, especially when they per-
ceived their environment to be supportive of entre-
preneurship (Zhang et al., 2016).
Five studies investigated context from the per-
spective of reactions to shocks such as industrial and
natural disasters (e.g., chemical explosion, tsunami)
and personal trauma (surviving cancer). They again
point to the close link between entrepreneurswork
and their identity. In four studies (two cross-sectional,
two longitudinal), entrepreneurs were among the
groups whose MWB suffered the most due to the
shock (Cohidon et al., 2009; De Mel et al., 2008; Torp,
Nielsen,Gudbergsson, & Dahl, 2012; Torp etal., 2017).
Another study found that starting a business in the
immediate aftermath of a natural disaster can help
especially highly educated individuals to cope with
the disaster (Williams & Shepherd, 2016).
Physical work environment. Four cross-sectional
studies investigated the physical work environment
(Anderson & Hughes, 2010; Gunnarsson, Vingard, &
Josephson, 2007; Kallioniemi et al., 2016; S¨
orensson
& Dalborg, 2017). Poor physical working environ-
ments, including a heavy physical workload and the
use of toxic materials, strained entrepreneursMWB.
At the same time, for farm and nature entrepreneurs,
the physical work environment (nature) was pos-
itively related to their MWB.
Consequences of EntrepreneursMWB
The reviewed research studied the impact of en-
trepreneursMWB on the performance of the indi-
vidual entrepreneur by investigating persistence
FIGURE 2
Consequences of EntrepreneursMWB: Summary of Review Findings, Gaps, and
Possible Dynamic Relationships
Entrepreneurs’
mental
well-being
Opportunity recognition (5)
Proactive behavior (1)
Effort (2), Absenteeism (2)
Entrepreneurs’ physical health (1)
Well-being of others:
Family (partner, children) (3)
Employees and other stakeholders (0)
Persistence (7)
Firm performance (8)
Possible Moderating Effects (0)
Perceived success (1)
Identity confirmation (0)
Work (1), financial (2),
social (0), personal/personality (0),
resources and stressors
Tolerance (1)
Prosocial actions (0)
Unethical behavior (0)
Collective outcomes (0)
Context
Note: Bold font highlights the most frequently researched concepts and relationships. Numbers in brackets indicate the number of studies in
the review reporting relevant evidence. Zeros and dashed lines indicate newly proposed relationships. All relationships refer to the individual
level, except relationships with firm performance (individual to firm level), relationships with the well-being of others (which imply crossover
effects from the individual entrepreneur to others), and relationships with collective outcomes (which imply individual-to-collectivelevel
relationships). See text for details.
2018 305Stephan
(seven studies), opportunity recognition (five stud-
ies), and work behaviors (five studies), and on the
performance of entrepreneursfirms (eight studies).
Further studies linked entrepreneursMWB to other
individual-level outcomes (their physical health and
stress, one study each) and explored the conse-
quences of entrepreneursMWB for others, in-
cluding the entrepreneursfamilies (children and life
partners, three studies) and societal conflict (one
study). Three studies included measures of two dif-
ferent consequences. Of the 28 studies reviewed in
this section, 10 employed longitudinal, lagged, or
experience-sampling designs; one was an ethno-
graphic study; and the remaining 17 were cross-
sectional studies. Table A2 in the online supplement
provides details of all studies. Figure 2 is based on
the reviewed studies and gives an overview of the
type of consequences studied, their possible re-
lationships, and the frequency with they were stud-
ied (see also Table 2). Figure 2 also contains
additional outcomes that future research could ex-
plore, which will be detailed in the discussion
section.
Why would MWB be related to performance out-
comes? MWB can act as a self-regulatory mechanism
as described in conservation of resources theory
(Hobfoll, 2001). Entrepreneurs with high MWB can
draw on more cognitive and affective resources to
work on the business (Hobfoll, 2001). In particular,
the positive affect associated with high MWB
broadens thought and action repertoires (e.g., facili-
tating creativity and opportunity recognition) and in
turn helps the building of future resources (as
described in the broaden- and-build theory; Fredrickson,
2001). The studies in the review relating MWB to op-
portunity recognition and work-related behaviors help
to unpack such micro-level mechanisms that underpin
the MWBfirm performance link. Low MWB triggers
efforts to conserve resources, which can mean that en-
trepreneurs withdraw from this highly demanding
activity altogether. Moreover, entrepreneurs see their
MWB as an indicator of their success as entrepreneurs
(Wach et al., 2016), and thus low MWB indicates that
they are not achieving their goals, again encouraging
withdrawal. I first discuss the evidence that relates MWB
to an individuals persistence in entrepreneurship and
his or her firms performance, before delving into studies
on possible individual-level intervening processes (op-
portunities and work behaviors) and those considering
consequences of entrepreneursMWB for others.
TABLE 2
Overview of Review Findings on the Consequences of EntrepreneursMWB
Consequence of MWB Total N of
studies
N with stronger
research designs
a
NotesOutcome 10Other
Performance-related outcomes
b
28 10
Persistence 6* 1** 73 *In one study this effect was
contingent on social capital.
**One descriptive study
without controls.
Firm performance 7 1 83
Opportunity recognition 5 1* 50 *In Foo (2011) happiness and
anger had the same effects
on opportunity recognition.
Effort toward goals 2 1* 21 *In Foo et al. (2009) both
positive and negative
affect facilitated effort
but toward different goals.
Absenteeism 2 20
Proactive behaviors 1 11
Outcomes for the entrepreneur
(ill health, stress)
222
Outcomes for others (partners,
children, tolerance toward others)
31 42
Notes:
aLongitudinal, lagged, experimental, experience sampling studies
bIndividual studies may contain information on more than one outcome. Hence, the sum of studies across the individual outcomes appears
greater than 28.
*and ** are explained in the last column for each row.
306 AugustAcademy of Management Perspectives
Persistence is the lack of withdrawal from entre-
preneurial activity. Entrepreneurs with higher MWB
were more likely to persist in entrepreneurship in six
of the seven studies that investigated it, including
three longitudinal studies (Gorgievski et al., 2010;
Patel & Thatcher, 2014; Wincent et al., 2008). One
cross-sectional study found this to be the case only
for entrepreneurs who had fewer resources (low so-
cial capital; Pollack, Vanepps, & Hayes, 2012). Other
cross-sectional studies found that entrepreneurs
with higher MWB were more likely to persist and
restart their businesses after an external disaster had
destroyed them (Kadowaki et al., 2016), while
happierolder entrepreneurs were more likely to
intend to delay their retirement (Kautonen, Hytti,
Boegenhold, & Heinonen, 2012). The one exception
was a descriptive cross-sectional study of bed-and-
breakfast owners, in which job satisfaction was
unexpectedly positively and workfamily balance
expectedly negatively associated with exit planning
(Crawford & Naar, 2016). It may be that owners who
were satisfied with their work sought to buy larger
businesses with employees to increase their work
life balance.
In seven of the eight studies that investigated MWB
and firm performance, happier entrepreneurs led
higher performing firms, whether performance was
measured as business growth, innovative behavior,
perceived success, fewer perceived financial prob-
lems, or customer service quality perceptions. This
was true for different MWB indicators of distress,
negative affect, and eudaimonic well-being (cross-
sectionally in Gorgievski, Moriano, & Bakker, 2014,
and longitudinally in Gorgievski-Duijvesteijin et al.,
2000, and Gorgievski et al., 2010) as well as re-
lated indicators of coping styles (longitudinally
in Ayala & Manzano, 2014, and cross-sectionally
in ¨
Ortqvist, Drnovsek, & Wincent, 2007). Similarly,
a study on manic depression (bipolar disorder)
found that entrepreneurs with manic vulnerabilities
were more likely to report losses (Johnson, Freeman,
& Staudenmaier, 2015), and a study of hairstylist
business owners found that their customers reported
higher service satisfaction the more satisfied and
committed the owners were (Payne & Webber, 2006).
The exception to this pattern was one longitudinal
study in which higher distress predicted higher
personal income at the cost of worse physical health
(Cardon & Patel, 2015). Trait positive affect strength-
ened the stressincome relationship and directly en-
hanced income. This study is consistent with the view
that distress, especially in combination with trait
psychological resources, can lead to the mobilization
of extra effort and benefit performance. Yet over the
longer term the persistent strain on the body dam-
ages physical health (McEwen, 1998).
In addition to entrepreneursMWB influencing
their physical health (Cardon & Patel, 2015), one
other study investigated outcomes for the entrepre-
neur. In a longitudinal study, ¨
Ortqvist and Wincent
(2010) found that exhausted and dissatisfied entre-
preneurs were more likely to subsequently perceive
their work as more demanding and stressful.
All five studies examining the effects of MWB on
opportunity recognition were cross-sectional stud-
ies. Lower MWB was related to reduced opportunity
recognition, especially for older entrepreneurs
(Gielnik, Zacher, & Frese, 2012)a finding consis-
tent with a resource-diminishing effect of low MWB,
to which more vulnerable entrepreneurs are espe-
cially susceptible. Conversely, Rietveld, Bailey,
Hessels, and Van der Zwan (2016) found that
healthier business owners saw more opportunities
for firm growth. Foo (2011, study 2) found that en-
trepreneurs with high anger as well as those with
high happiness identified more uncertain high-value
opportunities. Even though anger and happiness
differ in valence, they both trigger similar confidence
mindsets, which allow for the exploration of more
uncertain opportunities. Foos (2011) study thus
points to a potential upside of low MWB, as do two
studies that explored ADHD and ADHD-like symp-
toms. In particular, the impulsivity component of
ADHD was positively related to entrepreneursop-
portunity development (Wiklund, Patzelt, & Dimov,
2016) as well as their entrepreneurial orientation
(Thurik, Khedhaouria, Torr`
es, & Verheul, 2016).
Five studies explored different micro-level pro-
cesses that help to unpack the effects of MWB by
linking it to entrepreneurswork behaviors. One
experience-sampling study demonstrated that neg-
ative and positive affective states influence entre-
preneurswork focus differently, by causing them to
expend effort on either immediate or future-oriented
tasks respectively (Foo, Uy, & Baron, 2009). A cross-
sectional multilevel study presents complementary
evidence investigating goal-related affect. Positive
affect, related to specific work and family goals, en-
abled goal realization, while entrepreneurs found it
more difficult to achieve goals with a negative emo-
tional connotation (Laguna, Alessandri, & Caprara,
2016). An MWB-related psychological resource
(positive orientation) moderated and facilitated
these processes. In cross-sectional studies, more
satisfied entrepreneurs were less likely to engage in
absenteeism (absence from work because of health
2018 307Stephan
problems), indicating that those with high MWB are
willing to expend more effort at work, despite health
problems (Cocker, Martin, Scott, Venn, & Sanderson,
2013; Lechmann & Schnabel, 2014). However,
a longitudinal study paints a more nuanced picture.
Entrepreneursproactive work behaviors were stim-
ulated by eudaimonic and not hedonic well-being
(vigor vs. life satisfaction; Hahn, Frese, Binnewies,
& Schmitt, 2012).
With regard to consequences for others,one
longitudinal study identified crossover effects of
entrepreneursMWB on the MWB of their life
partners (Gorgievski-Duijvesteijin et al., 2000).
Related longitudinal research found negative ef-
fects stemming from the stress, workload, and time
commitment of parental self-employment on chil-
drens MWB (Wirback, M ¨
oller, Larsson, Galanti, &
Engstr¨
om, 2014). Gudmundsson (2013) offered
a nuanced exploration of immigrant entrepre-
neursfamilies, describing both vicious cycles as
well as empowering effects. Finally, Tobias, Mair,
and Barbosa-Leiker (2013) found that increases in
entrepreneursMWB reduced their out-group
prejudice (a key source of social conflict) in post-
genocide Rwanda.
Dynamic relationships. Three studies in the re-
view employed longitudinal cross-lagged panel re-
search designs and were able to test for reciprocal
relationships of MWB with outcomes. Gorgievski-
Duijvesteijin et al. (2000) and Gorgievski et al. (2010)
noted negative downward spirals between low MWB
and financial problems. ¨
Ortqvist and Wincent (2010)
found reciprocal relationships between role stress
and low MWB, suggesting that exhausted and dis-
satisfied entrepreneurs were more likely to view
their work as demanding, which led them to spiral
downward to further exhaustion and more dissatis-
faction. Gudmundsson (2013) described similar vir-
tuous and vicious circles qualitatively in their study
of immigrant entrepreneurs and their children. The
feedback loops implied by such dynamic relation-
ships are depicted by the arrows at the bottom of
Figures 1 and 2.
DISCUSSION AND FUTURE RESEARCH
The aim of this review is to draw attention to en-
trepreneursMWB as a research area that should be
positioned more centrally in management and en-
trepreneurship research. By synthesizing and map-
ping the existing knowledge that is currently
dispersed across a variety of disciplines, the review
provides a platform for future theoretical and
empirical work on entrepreneursMWB. The spe-
cific findings advance our understanding of entre-
preneursMWB. They systematize our knowledge
about the antecedents and consequences of entre-
preneursMWB and MWB differences among dif-
ferent types of entrepreneur. In particular, the review
identifies novel overlooked antecedents of entre-
preneursMWB that go beyond the work, social, and
personality characteristics emphasized in current
research. These novel antecedents are related to en-
trepreneursmotivation and human capital, firm and
financial characteristics, and market and country
context. The review also contributes by highlighting
new social consequences of entrepreneursMWB for
others beyond the entrepreneur, while integrating
findings on known consequences related to entre-
preneurswork behaviors and firm performance.
Collectively these findings provide a framework
for research on entrepreneursMWB (see Figures 1
and 2). They also point the way to evolving a new
theory of entrepreneurial work and MWB by high-
lighting emerging themes and blind spots. This en-
ables us to develop a more dynamic, variable,
socialized, and contextualized view of entrepre-
neursMWB that takes account of the fluidity of en-
trepreneursworklife settings and the centrality of
their work to their identity.
From Theories for Employees to a Theory of
Entrepreneurial Work and MWB
The review reveals that current theorizing about
the nature of entrepreneurswork and MWB is un-
derdeveloped, and thus calls for the elaboration of
a dedicated theory of entrepreneurial work and
MWB. This may be a surprising conclusion given the
number of studies reviewed. Yet despite widespread
recognition that entrepreneurswork is different,
existing research is dominated by models developed
and validated to understand the MWB of salaried
employees (e.g., the job demandscontrol model,
Karasek, 1979; role stress theory, Kahn et al., 1964;
the job characteristics model, Hackman & Oldham,
1975; work-related social support, House, 1981) and
utilizes quantitative theory-testing studies. Apply-
ing such well-established models to entrepreneur-
ship was an important first step in researching
entrepreneursMWB, and is reflective of the fact that
much research on entrepreneursMWB has been
conducted in fields outside of entrepreneurship.
Yet the findings of this review suggest that
these models also limit our understanding of
308 AugustAcademy of Management Perspectives
entrepreneursMWB. We need to significantly
widen and deepen our view to truly understand en-
trepreneurswork and MWB, and its many unique
features. Specifically, the reviews findings highlight
a wider set of antecedents and consequences of
entrepreneursMWB, and they suggest insights and
avenues for future research that can act as the
building blocks of a theory of entrepreneursMWB.
These insights pertain to the need to better un-
derstand the nature of entrepreneursMWB, the
TABLE 3
EntrepreneursMWB: Summary of Opportunities for Future Contributions (elaborations in manuscript text)
The nature of entrepreneursMWB
cWhat are possible functionalitiesof low MWB? In what way are feelings of distress, discontentment, and symptoms of mental disorders
(beyond ADHD) functionalto motivate entrepreneurial actions and for positive outcomes?
cWhat are the consequences of the variability and balance between well-being and distress? Are they related to entrepreneursperformance and
resilience, and if so, how?
cGreater attention to entrepreneurseudaimonic well-being (e.g., thriving, meaning, self-realization): What are the specific antecedents of
entrepreneurseudaimonic well-being?
cTo what extent is the high hedonic well-being of entrepreneurs driven by self-justification processes to reduce cognitive dissonance?
The nature of entrepreneurswork (stressors and resources relevant for MWB)
cWhat role do volatility and fluctuations in stressors and resources play for entrepreneursMWB, beyond considering their mean levels?
cAre we investigating the right kindof stressors? What stressors might act as challenge or hindrance stressors, and when and how?
cHow should we conceptualize the enmeshment of entrepreneurswork with their private and social life? Can this help to explain MWB
differences between the genders?
cHow can we incorporate firm and market context into theories of entrepreneurswork?
cHow do entrepreneurs craft their own work, social, and financial demands and resources?
cWhen and how might entrepreneurswork change their personality?
Unpacking the trade-offs inherent in entrepreneurswork
cWhen and how might autonomy have potential detrimental effects? Are there curvilinear effects? When and how might autonomy lead
entrepreneurs to overexert themselves?
cHow can the centrality of entrepreneurswork for their identity be better recognized? How might entrepreneurspassion and thriving develop
into obsession and addiction?
cWhat short- and long-term productivity and health trade-offs are there? What is the role of recovery? What recovery processes and activities
do entrepreneurs engage in?
cAre there trade-offs between entrepreneursMWB and the MWB of their employees?
Contextualizing research on entrepreneursMWB
cWhat are the MWB resources and stressors associated with different types/forms of entrepreneurship (e.g., growth-oriented, necessity, social,
informal, family business)?
cHow can the documented MWB differences across countries be explained? What role do formal institutions and culture play? Through
which processes do they affect MWB?
Expanding our understanding of the consequences of entrepreneursMWB
cBeyond opportunity recognition, effort, and performance, what other outcomes does entrepreneursMWB affect?
cDoes entrepreneursMWB create crossover effects, influencing the MWB of their stakeholders? If so, how? Does entrepreneursMWB
relate to collective outcomes? If so, how? How does MWB relate to prosocial behavior, ethical decisions, and transgressions?
Toward greater plurality of research designs and methods
cWhat methods can complement the current dominance of theory-testing and cross-sectional research? Experiment with longitudinal
qualitative research, ethnography, work-shadowing, physiological, and other ratings of entrepreneursMWB.
cOver what time frame should longitudinal, process, and diary studies be conducted to capture microprocesses and changes in MWB
and its antecedents and consequences?
cUse multilevel studies to unpack influences of national or community contexts on entrepreneursMWB, and to discern how entrepreneurs
MWB affects their employees.
2018 309Stephan
nature of their work, its enmeshment with their pri-
vate life and identity, and the inherent trade-offs that
these work and worklife settings entail. They also
call for a more dynamic and contextualized ap-
proach to the unpacking of how, why, and for what
new outcomes entrepreneursMWB may matter.
Table 3 summarizes these novel insights and op-
portunities for future research in the form of a series
of questions. I discuss these questions next, along
with specific examples.
The nature of entrepreneursMWB. The review
reveals that particular aspects of MWB (distress and
hedonic well-being) have thus far been the focus of
research, to the neglect of others (mental disorders
and eudaimonic well-being). It finds that there are
overlooked functionalities of low MWB, and that
a static view of MWB dominates research. This calls
for a more balanced perspective of entrepreneurs
MWB, and for future work to theorize about the full
range of MWB indicators and their interplay and
variability.
A more refined understanding of entrepreneurs
MWB would recognize that while high MWB is de-
sirable, there may be functional aspects of low MWB
that support entrepreneursperformance. This view
is inspired by studies in the review that highlight that
low MWB (in the form of day-to-day negative emo-
tions) can motivate effort with a short-term focus
(Foo et al., 2009) and that particular symptoms of
ADHD (a mental disorder) may facilitate entrepre-
neurial action (Wiklund et al., 2016). Such research
is scarce, probably because it diverges from domi-
nant theories that generally link positive conse-
quences to high MWB (Fredrickson, 2013; Hobfoll,
2001; Lyubomirsky et al., 2005). Yet possible func-
tionalities of low MWB, including of symptoms of
mental disorders, merit more research attention for
at least two reasons. First, the review suggests that
high levels of demands and feeling stressed (tense,
apprehensive, and occasionally overwhelmed) are
ubiquitous for entrepreneurs. Second, mental dis-
orders are on the rise. If research finds that symptoms
of other disorders beyond ADHD can be functional
for certain aspects of entrepreneurial action, entre-
preneurship research may even help to change
opinion on mental disorders.
The variability of entrepreneursMWB is un-
explored. Uncertainty is a hallmark of entrepre-
neurship (McMullen & Shepherd, 2006) and implies
frequent changes. This suggests that entrepreneurs
experiences may be highly variable, and may in-
clude spikes of high and low MWB. Such variabil-
ity goes unnoticed by the approaches of current
research, which are focused on mean levels of MWB
typically aggregated across situations. No study
considered variability in MWB. Thus the anteced-
ents and consequences of possible variability of
MWB and of the relative balance between well-being
and distress are virtually unexplored. By focusing
solely on mean levels we may misinterpret how well
entrepreneurs feel, and we may miss important
drivers of entrepreneurial action. Research on affect
spin, a trait related to emotion regulation, can serve
as inspiration for how to conceptualize and measure
MWB variability (Uy, Sun, & Foo, 2017).
Entrepreneurseudaimonic well-being remains
largely unexplored. This is surprising because firm
performance is more likely to benefit from entre-
preneurseudaimonic well-being (thriving and acti-
vated affect) than from their hedonic well-being
(satisfaction and contentment). For instance, a focus
on eudaimonic well-being entails dedicated theo-
rizing about its predictors; this challenges re-
searchers to consider hitherto unexplored concepts
(such as character strengths and virtues) as relevant
aspects of personality (Park, Peterson, & Seligman,
2004). It would also lead to new counterintuitive
research questions relating to the MWB-enhancing
effects of negative states when they are in line with
ones self-conceptthat is, onesdaimon(Tamir,
Schwartz, Oishi, & Kim, 2017). For instance, the
eudaimonic MWB of competitive, growth-oriented
entrepreneurs may be underpinned by feelings of
pride as well as anger.
Entrepreneurs consistently report high levels of
hedonic well-being (e.g., job and life satisfaction),
which is widely depicted as a benefit of being an
entrepreneur (Benz & Frey, 2008). Before we cele-
brate this finding, it seems worth unpacking the
microfoundational processes behind it. In particular,
entrepreneurswork has many features known to
trigger self-justification processes so as to reduce
cognitive dissonance. These processes bring ones
attitudes (in the case of entrepreneurs, their satis-
faction judgments) in line with past investments and
choices, especially if these choices were made au-
tonomously (Festinger, 1964). It seems likely that
entrepreneurs would engage in dissonance-reducing
strategies. Psychologically, they may justify the large
investments of time and other personal resources
that they put into their firm, and the trade-offs they
are willing to make (e.g. in terms of income, leisure,
and family time), by seemingly deriving great satis-
faction from their jobs. Entrepreneursself-reports of
high satisfaction may thus be indicative of being
locked in to their careers. Research could untangle
310 AugustAcademy of Management Perspectives
such processes by adopting a balanced view of MWB
(e.g., measuring eudaimonic MWB also), by obtain-
ing assessments of entrepreneursMWB from others
close to the entrepreneur, and by using objective
indicators of MWB (see below).
The nature of entrepreneurswork. Future re-
search needs to acknowledge the variability and
dynamic aspects of entrepreneurswork. If auton-
omy and uncertainty are hallmarks of entrepre-
neurship, then entrepreneurswork situations are
unlikely to be static. Thus, beyond considering ag-
gregated mean scores of work, social, personal, firm,
and market resources and stressors, what are the im-
plications of the volatility and fluctuations in re-
sources and stressors for entrepreneursMWB? Might
such variation act as a stressor in its own right?
No studies in the review investigated such aspects.
However, the three longitudinal studies in the review,
which were able to test for reciprocal relationships
(Gorgievski et al., 2010; Gorgievski-Duijvesteijin
et al., 2000; ¨
Ortqvist & Wincent, 2010), found evi-
dence for feedback loops. This reinforces the need
to pay greater attention to dynamic processes and
changeability over time in understanding entrepre-
neurswork and their MWB. Future research should
consider measures of variability and deviation of
stressors and resources alongside mean scores.
The review findings reveal a range of unique
stressors of entrepreneurswork that have not been
fully recognized in past research and have yet to be
theorized. Specifically, qualitative studies identified
in the review suggest that past research may have
missed key stressors important for entrepreneurs
MWB, such as customer and employee conflicts,
uncertainty related to their actions, uncertainty in
market demand, intense competition, and pressures
stemming from the perceived responsibility for em-
ployees (e.g., Lechat & Torr `
es, 2016; Schonfeld &
Mazzola, 2015). Moreover, the possibility that cer-
tain types of stressors can have positive effects on
MWB (Podsakoff et al., 2007) was not explored in the
reviewed studies. Future research could build on the
challengehindrance stressor framework (Podsakoff
et al., 2007) to help explain entrepreneurshigh
levels of MWB despite their high levels of work
stress. This may explain the ambivalent effects of
long working hours found in the review. When long
hours signal that the business is going well and
thriving (Bradley & Roberts, 2004), they constitute
a challenge stressor linking increased demands to
long-term opportunities for growth, and can be as-
sociated with positive MWB. By contrast, conflicts
with customers over delayed payments would be
considered a hindrance stressor that stands in the
way of entrepreneurs running their business well,
with negative effects on MWB.
The review indicates that entrepreneurswork is
uniquely enmeshed with their non-work life, to the
extent that entrepreneurs could not meaningfully
talk about workas a separate life domain (Vaag
et al., 2014). While the studies that investigate social
support and workfamily balance recognize this
(Parasuraman & Simmers, 2001), studies outside of
this set typically adopt an undersocialized, in-
dividualistic perspective of the entrepreneurs in
their work context. Yet one study (Berge et al., 2015)
illustrates how viewing entrepreneurship in a
household context adds explanatory power: It was
more difficult to predict the performance-enhancing
effect of providing business training and microfinance
assistance to female entrepreneurs because their
husbands controlled the household finances, in-
cluding the income from the wivesbusinesses. A
related study found similar reasons for why collec-
tive, as opposed to individual, forms of female en-
trepreneurship were associated with higher MWB
(Dutt et al., 2016). Conversely, for entrepreneurs who
are the sole earners of income for their family,
whether they be male or female, the perceived re-
sponsibility for their familiesincome and well-
being may be an added strain on their MWB. In
a similar vein the strain on MWB stemming from the
investments of personal resources (e.g., putting up
the family home as security for a business loan) go
unrecognized in the reviewed studiesdespite pos-
sible dramatic consequences for their MWB, such as
suicide (Kameyama et al., 2011). Collectively these
findings call for a more socialized view of entrepre-
neurs in their worklife contexts.
For entrepreneurs, work is also an expression of
their personalityarguably much more so than is the
case for any other occupation. The high levels of
autonomy and uncertainty likely allow entrepre-
neurs to uniquely shape their work settings and
businesses in line with their personality (Rauch
& Frese, 2007). This calls for models of entrepre-
neurial work and MWB to account for personality
and identity alongside work, social, firm, and con-
text characteristics. Future research could do so by
more explicitly considering personsituation inter-
actions (e.g., building on personenvironment fit
models, Edwards, 2008, or diathesis stress models,
Zuckerman, 1999). Only three studies in the review
considered such interactions (of personality with
work characteristics). Beyond interactive effects, the
consideration of personality also implies dynamics
2018 311Stephan
that are yet to be investigated for entrepreneurs. Re-
search on employees found that their personality can
change over three to five years in response to work
characteristics, such as high autonomy and job de-
mands (Li, Fay, Frese, Harms, & Gao, 2014; Wu,
2016). These characteristics are ubiquitous in en-
trepreneurswork, calling for longitudinal research
to explore when and how entrepreneurswork might
change their personality and with what conse-
quences for their MWB.
Unique to research on entrepreneurswork and
MWB is the close interrelationship with the market
and competitive climate within which they operate.
While recognition of the importance of context for
entrepreneursMWB is increasing in terms of how
frequently it is being studied, there was no agree-
ment among the reviewed studies on what the most
relevant aspects are, how they should be captured,
and through what microfoundational processes they
influence MWB. This calls for conceptual and scale
development work to make sense of the diverse as-
pects of market and competitive context covered in
the review. Such work could build on conceptuali-
zations of market context used in strategy research
(Dess & Beard, 1984).
Unpacking the trade-offs inherent in entrepre-
neurswork. The reviewed studies identified MWB
trade-offs across life domains, such as high satisfac-
tion with work but low satisfaction with income and
leisure time (e.g., Binder & Coad, 2016). However,
other trade-offs relating to entrepreneurswork re-
main unexplored.
Autonomy is widely depicted as a key resource
underlying entrepreneursMWB, and this was cor-
roborated in nearly all studies in the review. Yet
could there be too much autonomy? One qualitative
study raises this possibility, depicting entrepreneurs
as struggling with navigating their freedom to choose
how, what, when, and with whom to work (van
Gelderen, 2016). Some studies imply a notion of
fit,such that individuals who actively choose to be
entrepreneurs may reap the MWB benefits of au-
tonomy but necessity entrepreneurs may not (Binder
& Coad, 2013), or that optimists thrive in settings
of high autonomy and challenge (Totterdell et al.,
2006). Yet research hardly explores the implications
of autonomy in terms of increased accountability and
feeling responsible for employees (Begley, 1994).
Research has also not yet explored possible cur-
vilinear effects of autonomy. Might very high levels
of autonomy enhance uncertainty and become over-
whelming, threatening, and anxiety provokingin
line with the paradox of choice (Iyengar & Lepper,
2000; Schwartz, 2004)? There are also opportunities
for research to develop our understanding and chart,
over time, when and how autonomy might lead to
lower MWBfor instance, when it may lead entre-
preneurs to overexert themselves (e.g., by pursuing
every possible opportunity for growth)and, more
generally, how and when constraints on entrepre-
neursautonomy may arise (e.g. in response to large
contracts with a dominant customer, or large in-
vestments from a particular investor; van Gelderen,
2016; Reymen et al., 2015).
Two studies pointed to a possible MWB trade-off
as a result of works centrality to entrepreneurs
identity (Fisher et al., 2013; Spivack et al., 2014). The
close entwinement of work and identity can lead to
behaviors and feelings of obsession and addiction
to work (and to being an entrepreneur) that are
associated with low MWB. Future research should
clarify the generalizability of these findings and
pinpoint when and how entrepreneursengagement
and thriving develops into obsession and addiction.
More generally, the pattern of findings (e.g., entre-
preneursreactions to losing their job; Hetschko,
2016) points to a close link between identity and
work for entrepreneurs, in line with established re-
search on entrepreneurial passion (Cardon, Wincent,
Singh, & Drnovsek, 2009). Yet surprisingly, no study
linked passion directly to MWB, although a positive
effect could be expected (Cardon et al., 2009), espe-
cially for harmonious passion on eudaimonic well-
being (Vallerand, 2012).
What short- and long-term productivity and
health trade-offs might there be? The review finds
that entrepreneurswork is intensely demanding
and stressful, yet they seem to experience high
levels of MWBat least in the shorter term. How-
ever, the constant exposure to high levels of nu-
merous stressors might predispose entrepreneurs
to mental disorders and diseases and lead to low
MWB in the long term (via processes of allostatic
load; McEwen, 2004). Indeed, one study provides
related evidence consistent with this explanation
for physical health (Cardon & Patel, 2015). To avoid
such long-term negative outcomes, research on
work-related MWB more generally highlights the
importance of recovery. Recovery research was
virtually absent from the review and was the de-
clared focus of only two studies (Rau et al., 2008;
Taris et al., 2008). There are therefore ample op-
portunities for future work. Moreover, not only can
recovery processes offer a unique understanding of
how entrepreneurs may be able to maintain high
levels of MWB in the long term, but they may also
312 AugustAcademy of Management Perspectives
benefit firm performance by stimulating creativ-
ity and efficiency (Weinberger, Wach, Stephan, &
Wegge, 2018; Wendsche & Lohmann-Haislah, 2017).
Understanding the nature of the recovery processes
and activities entrepreneurs engage in (especially
considering their time constraints) and the effects of
these on MWB would be an essential part of a theory
of entrepreneurial work and MWB.
Might there be a trade-off of entrepreneursMWB
for the well-being of their employees? If entrepre-
neurs experience high levels of MWB that are asso-
ciated with greater sensitivity to recognizing
opportunities (Gielnik et al., 2012), might this imply
a negative effect on their employeesMWB? From
a work design perspective, new opportunities are
likely to involve new work processes, and growing
businesses often struggle to hire employees at the
same rate at which they expand, meaning a higher
workload for and further demands on those who al-
ready work for the entrepreneur. A contrasting pre-
diction might be derived from research on emotional
contagion processes (Van Kleef, 2009), whereby the
entrepreneurspositive MWB would cross over to
employees. Even though employees form an integral
part of a firm, no studies in the review addressed
such relationships. Thus, there are opportunities for
future research to discern how and when entrepre-
neursMWB affects the MWB of their employees.
Contextualizing research on entrepreneurs
MWB. The review reinforces calls to consider het-
erogeneity among entrepreneurs (Davidsson, 2016)
and to develop context-sensitive theories (Welter,
2011; Zahra & Wright, 2011). It extends such calls
to research on entrepreneursMWB. With regard
to heterogeneity among entrepreneurs, the review
findings highlight differences between types of en-
trepreneurs. Studies identified systematic variation
in MWB between opportunity and necessity entre-
preneurs (broadly defined). Other studies linked re-
lated concepts of intrinsic motivation and values
(e.g., creativity and nonfinancial success) to higher
MWB. There are untapped opportunities to unpack
and theorize the specific profile of the MWB chal-
lenges and resources for different types of entrepre-
neurs. For instance, compared to self-employed sole
traders, growth-oriented employer-entrepreneurs face
more complex work, greater responsibility pres-
sures for employees, and steeper competition in the
market. Necessity entrepreneurs might grapple
more with resource constraints. It is unclear under
what circumstances and over what time frame ne-
cessity entrepreneurs would derive performance
benefits from MWB, if at a