Journal of Applied Social Psychology

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Subjective well‐being and valuation of future health states: Discrepancies between anticipated and experienced life satisfaction

Abstract One way of informing health policy decisions is to ask people about the impact that different health states would have on their future subjective well‐being. The present research explored the relation between anticipated and experienced changes in health‐related subjective well‐being, and examined whether affective forecasting errors could be reduced by psychological distancing manipulations. Using survey methodology, we tested whether people can accurately estimate the impact of different possible health states on their subjective well‐being. We also manipulated psychological distance: Forecasts were made about present self, future self, or others. Based on construal level theory and past work on affective forecasting errors, our prediction was that increasing psychological distance may reduce the mismatch between anticipated and experienced impact of health states on subjective well‐being. We found that the impact of ill health on subjective well‐being was greatly overpredicted and that this overprediction was not eliminated when participants were asked to make predictions about themselves in the future or about other people. Consistent with past work, we found that our participants correctly expected that their subjective well‐being would deteriorate more if they experienced the highest levels of mental illness as compared to the highest intensities of pain or most severe limitations to physical functioning.

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