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Open Access Research article

The structure of psychological life satisfaction: insights from farmers and a general community sample in Australia

Léan V OBrien12*, Helen L Berry12 and Anthony Hogan23

Author Affiliations

1 National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

2 Centre for Research and Action in Public Health, Faculty of Health, University of Canberra, Canberra, Australia

3 School of Sociology, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:976  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-976

Published: 14 November 2012

Abstract

Background

Psychological life satisfaction is a robust predictor of wellbeing. Public health measures to improve wellbeing would benefit from an understanding of how overall life satisfaction varies as a function of satisfaction with multiple life domains, an area that has been little explored. We examine a sample of drought-affected Australian farmers and a general community sample of Australians to investigate how domain satisfaction combines to form psychological satisfaction. In particular, we introduce a way of statistically testing for the presence of “supra-domains” of satisfaction to propose a novel way of examining the composition of psychological life satisfaction to gain insights for health promotion and policy.

Methods

Covariance between different perceptions of life domain satisfaction was identified by conducting correlation, regression, and exploratory factor analyses on responses to the Personal Wellbeing Index. Structural equations modelling was then used to (a) validate satisfaction supra-domain constructs emerging from different perceptions of life domain satisfaction, and (b) model relationships between supra-domains and an explicit measure of psychological life satisfaction.

Results

Perceived satisfaction with eight different life domains loaded onto a single unitary satisfaction construct adequately in each sample. However, in both samples, different domains better loaded onto two separate but correlated constructs (‘supra-domains’): “satisfaction with connectedness” and “satisfaction with efficacy”. Modelling reciprocal pathways between these supra-domains and an explicit measure of psychological life satisfaction revealed that efficacy mediated the link between connectedness and psychological satisfaction.

Conclusions

If satisfaction with connectedness underlies satisfaction with efficacy (and thus psychological satisfaction), a novel insight for health policy emerges: psychological life satisfaction, a vital part of wellbeing, can potentially be enhanced by strengthening individuals’ connectedness to community. This may be particularly important and efficacious for vulnerable populations.