The declining marginal utility of social time for subjective well-being

Kostadin Kushlev, Samantha J. Heintzelman, Shigehiro Oishi, Ed Diener

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Are people who spend more time with others always happier than those who spend less time in social activities? Across four studies with more than 250,000 participants, we show that social time has declining marginal utility for subjective well-being. In Study 1 (N = 243,075), we use the Gallup World Poll with people from 166 countries, and in Study 2 (N = 10,387) the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), to show that social time has declining returns for well-being. In Study 3a (N = 168) and Study 3b (N = 174), we employ the Experience Sampling Method (ESM) to provide initial evidence for both intra-domain (principle of diminishing satisfaction) and inter-domain mechanisms (principle of satisfaction limits). We discuss implications for theory, research methodology, and practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)124-140
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Research in Personality
StatePublished - Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Psychology(all)


  • Life balance
  • Marginal utility
  • Principle of diminishing satisfaction
  • Principle of satisfaction limits
  • Psychological needs
  • Social interaction
  • Social relationships
  • Subjective well-being


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