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Wounds that time can’t heal: Life satisfaction and exposure to traumatic events

Alessandro Bucciol () and Luca Zarri

Journal of Economic Psychology, 2020, vol. 76, issue C

Abstract: In this study, by employing large-scale survey data from four waves of the US Health and Retirement Study (HRS), we explore the (potentially long-lasting) effects of individuals’ exposure to psychologically traumatic life experiences on their subjective well-being. To this aim, we exploit the richness of our dataset, that contains information about occurrence and timing of a set of extreme events out of individuals’ control that may leave a “scar” extending to their current levels of life satisfaction in general as well as with regard to specific life domains. Our findings indicate that having a close relative hit by a life-threatening illness or accident and, especially, having been victim of a serious physical attack or assault are negatively related to both general and domain-specific life satisfaction, even after controlling for personality traits. Next, life satisfaction is significantly lowered by being physically abused by a parent. Overall, we provide evidence that the effects of some traumatic events are persistent over time and mostly related to women. Surprisingly, the effects of child death are negligible also in the short term.

Keywords: Adverse life events; Subjective well-being; Life domains; Gender (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D91 I30 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.joep.2019.102241

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