Conceptions of Happiness Matter: Relationships between Fear and Fragility of Happiness and Mental and Physical Wellbeing

L. Lambert, Z. A. Draper, M. A. Warren, M. Joshanloo, En Ling Chiao, A. Schwam, T. Arora

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Wellbeing has become an increasingly important priority worldwide. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), much research and financial investment are being committed to increasing wellbeing. However, how the pursuit of happiness, as a driver of wellbeing, is not commonly investigated. In particular, fear of happiness and beliefs in its fragility challenge dominant Western views that happiness is desirable and actively pursued by all. How these lay beliefs of happiness are associated with individual levels of wellbeing and related behaviours have not been well explored. Accordingly, we sought to identify wellbeing profiles by examining mental health functioning, positive emotion, flourishing, cultural beliefs in the fear of happiness and fragility of happiness, physical activity and levels of reported sleep as well as demographics such as age and gender. Using a sample of 834 Emirati university students in the UAE, fear and fragility of happiness were used to develop wellbeing profiles. We found three profiles: ‘unstable’ moderate wellbeing,’ ‘fearful, moderate wellbeing,’ and ‘stable, high wellbeing.’ This is one of few studies to show that beliefs in the fear and fragility of happiness are related to lower subjective wellbeing and cluster with other behavioural factors, such that physical health indicators like physical activity and sleep were associated with greater subjective wellbeing and more stable wellbeing profiles. In sum, lay beliefs of happiness not only appear to influence wellbeing itself, but concomitant behaviours as well.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)535-560
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Happiness Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • Culture
  • Fear of happiness
  • Fragility of happiness
  • Lay conceptualizations
  • Subjective wellbeing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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