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A misfortune or a benefit? Young people’s quality of life and romantic relationships during the Covid-19 pandemic

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Abstract

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought unexpected changes in important aspects of young people’s lives. The academic literature contains many studies on the risks and adverse effects, while any potential positive aspects have been side-lined. This paper examines quality of life and relationships among young people in emerging and young adulthood in order to identify the negatives and benefits of the pandemic. In this qualitative research a “letter to a friend” free-writing exercise was used as the data collection method on a total sample of 107 young people aged 18-34 years. Using reflective thematic analysis, the statements were then grouped into two themes: “Covid as a misfortune” and “Covid as a benefit”.

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Subjective well-being (SWB) comprises people’s longer-term levels of pleasant affect, lack of unpleasant affect, and life satisfaction. It displays moderately high levels of cross-situational consistency and temporal stability. Self-report measures of SWB show adequate validity, reliability, factor invariance, and sensitivity to change. Despite the success of the measures to date, more sophisticated approaches to defining and measuring SWB are now possible. Affect includes facial, physiological, motivational, behavioral, and cognitive components. Self-reports assess primarily the cognitive component of affect, and thus are unlikely to yield a complete picture of respondents’ emotional lives. For example, denial may influence self-reports of SWB more than other components. Additionally, emotions are responses which vary on a number of dimensions such as intensity, suggesting that mean levels of affect as captured by existing measures do not give a complete account of SWB. Advances in cognitive psychology indicate that differences in memory retrieval, mood as information, and scaling processes can influence self-reports of SWB. Finally, theories of communication alert us to the types of information that are likely to be given in self-reports of SWB. These advances from psychology suggest that a multimethod approach to assessing SWB will create a more comprehensive depiction of the phenomenon. Not only will a multifaceted test battery yield more credible data, but inconsistencies between various measurement methods and between the various components of well-being. Knowledge of cognition, personality, and emotion will also aid in the development of sophisticated theoretical definitions of subjective well-being. For example, life satisfaction is theorized to be a judgment that respondents construct based on currently salient information. Finally, it is concluded that measuring negative reactions such as depression or anxiety give an incomplete picture of people’s well-being, and that it is imperative to measure life satisfaction and positive emotions as well.
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A sample of 222 undergraduates was screened for high happiness using multiple confirming assessment filters. We compared the upper 10% of consistently very happy people with average and very unhappy people. The very happy people were highly social, and had stronger romantic and other social relationships than less happy groups. They were more extraverted, more agreeable, and less neurotic, and scored lower on several psychopathology scales of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. Compared with the less happy groups, the happiest respondents did not exercise significantly more, participate in religious activities significantly more, or experience more objectively defined good events. No variable was sufficient for happiness, but good social relations were necessary. Members of the happiest group experienced positive, but not ecstatic, feelings most of the time, and they reported occasional negative moods. This suggests that very happy people do have a functioning emotion system that can react appropriately to life events.
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