ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2023, Vol. 55 ›› Issue (7): 1087-1098.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2023.01087

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The relationship between gratitude and social well-being: Evidence from a longitudinal study and a daily diary investigation

YE Ying, ZHANG Linting, ZHAO Jingjing, KONG Feng()   

  1. School of Psychology, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi’an 710062, China
  • Published:2023-07-25 Online:2023-04-21
  • Contact: KONG Feng


The positive psychological construct of gratitude is crucial for health and well-being. Previous studies have shown a significant positive correlation between gratitude and social well-being. However, to the best of our knowledge, no studies have examined this potentially reciprocal relationship from a longitudinal perspective. According to the broaden-and-build theory and gratitude amplification theory, we hypothesized that gratitude has a predictive effect on social well-being. In addition, based on the personality and social relationships model and self-determination theory, we proposed that social well-being is an antecedent to gratitude. In summary, this research combines a longitudinal study and a daily diary investigation to systematically explore the causal relation between gratitude and social well-being.

Study 1 employs a two-wave cross-lagged design to explore the long-term relationship between trait gratitude and social well-being. The sample comprised 563 undergraduate students, who all participated online. Pursuant to the study purpose, participants were asked to complete the gratitude and social well-being scales twice, separated by a seven-month interval. The cross-lagged path analysis suggested reciprocal effects between trait gratitude and social well-being. To reduce recall bias and explore the short-term association between gratitude and social well-being, Study 2 employs a daily diary method. A total of 274 young adults completed daily gratitude and social well-being measures for 21 consecutive days.

In Study 1, trait gratitude at T1 significantly positively predicted social well-being at T2, while social well-being at T1 also significantly predicted trait gratitude at T2. These effects remained significant after controlling for age and gender. Consistent with Study 1, Study 2 also revealed a reciprocal relationship: state gratitude on one day positively predicted social well-being the next day, while social well-being on one day also positively predicted state gratitude the next day. Moreover, these relationships were stable after controlling for time trends. Overall, the results of Study 1 and Study 2 support the hypotheses by showing reciprocal predictive effects between gratitude and social well-being.

In summary, we predicted that experiencing gratitude would lead to higher social well-being, which would, in turn, result in higher gratitude, activating an upward spiral. This work deepens understanding of the interaction between gratitude and social well-being, paving the way for future intervention research to help increase both.

Key words: gratitude, social well-being, longitudinal study, daily diary method