Examining links from civic engagement to daily well-being from a self-determination theory perspective

Laura Wray-Lake, Cody R. DeHaan, Jennifer Shubert, Richard M. Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Civic engagement may benefit individuals who engage in it, yet empirical evidence is lacking. We examined whether civic engagement was associated with well-being in a seven-day daily diary study of 276 college students. Based on self-determination theory, we hypothesized that satisfaction of basic psychological needs mediates the link between civic engagement and well-being. Four types of civic engagement–helping, pro-environmental behavior, volunteering, and charitable giving–were examined as separate predictors and as a composite predictor of daily well-being. The composite was associated with higher well-being across days, and basic needs satisfaction had a significant indirect effect on this association. Helping and pro-environmental behavior were linked to daily well-being directly and indirectly through basic needs satisfaction. No effects were evident for volunteering or charitable giving. Results suggest that civic engagement may enhance well-being, although some types of civic engagement may enhance well-being more than others.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-177
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Positive Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 4 Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a University Research Grant from the University of Rochester.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, © 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • affect
  • community service
  • Life satisfaction
  • mental health
  • prosocial behavior
  • vitality


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