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Reasons for homeostatic failure in subjective wellbeing


  • Robert Tanton

    () (NATSEM, University of Canberra)

  • Itismita Mohanty

    () (NATSEM, University of Canberra)

  • Anthony Hogan

    () (Australian National University)


This paper presents initial results from work being done on the reasons that people experience homeostatic defeat in subjective wellbeing. Subjective wellbeing shows signs of homeostasis, meaning it always gravitates to one number (on average 75 on a scale of 1 to 100). The range around this average is also very small, suggesting that homeostasis is acting as a protective factor for wellbeing. Homeostatic defeat is when homeostasis stops operating as a protective factor in subjective wellbeing. Homeostatic defeat occurs after challenges to subjective wellbeing become too much for the homeostatic system to deal with. This paper derives a point of homeostatic failure using data from the HILDA survey, and then identifies the group of people who have experienced homeostatic failure from one wave to the next of HILDA. Changes in social capital and life events experienced by these people over these two waves are calculated. A logistic regression model is then used to identify which of these changes have a significant effect on homeostatic failure. We find that, after controlling for changes in social capital and health, only two major life events (birth of a child and separation) have an effect on homeostatic failure. The birth of a child is associated with a lower probability of homeostatic failure; and separation is associated with a higher probability. Worsening of health and a reduction in leisure time are also associated with a higher probability of homeostatic failure. Income was significantly associated with a lower probability of homeostatic failure, so it is a protective factor.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert Tanton & Itismita Mohanty & Anthony Hogan, 2012. "Reasons for homeostatic failure in subjective wellbeing," NATSEM Working Paper Series 12/18, University of Canberra, National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling.
  • Handle: RePEc:cba:wpaper:wp1118

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    Wellbeing; homeostasis;

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