Are Stoics Still Happier? Stoic Week 2018 Report part 2 (of 4) by Tim LeBon
One main activity of the Modern Stoicism organization is carrying out research on the impact of adopting Stoic practices, perspectives, and principles on those who do so. Every year we run the Stoic Week online class, and we also gather valuable data through the surveys before and after participants engage in the class. Tim LeBon is our lead quantitative researcher, and he does invaluable service in compiling and interpreting the data collected, producing a set of Stoic Week Reports. This is the second report for this year, which you can download a copy of (with all of the appendices) by clicking here.
A strong positive relationship between Stoicism and well-being has been well documented in previous Stoic Week reports. This article analyses the findings from analysing questionnaires from the start of Stoic week 2018 and in addition introduces the improved version of the Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours Scale (SABS v4.0) . Future reports will discuss the effect of taking part in Stoic Week (part 3), summarise participant feedback and suggest future directions of research (part 4).
The New SABS Scale
Stoic Week 2018 saw the introduction of SABS 4.0. A small team of helpers (thank you all!) reviewed SABS 3.0 and critiqued each question in terms of its clarity and simplicity. In addition, the data from Stoic Week 2017 was analysed with the extremely valuable assistance of Ray diGuiseppe to eliminate items which did not have good psychometric properties.
The result is a 77 item questionnaire as described in Appendix A. If you took part in Stoic Week, you might like to turn straight to Appendix A where we say a little bit about each of the 77 items, provide comparison data for each item (average, low and high scores).. We intend in future to further refine the SABS scale, producing a psychometrically valid SABS 5.0 with a number of subscales.
Stoicism and Well-Being
The relationship between Stoicism and well-being has been well documented in previous reports. This section summarises the findings and answers questions that interested readers are likely to ask.
Q: In the past you’ve found significant correlations between level of Stoicism (as measured by SABS) and the various well-being measures. Has this been replicated?
A: Indeed it has. With 3702 valid scores the probability of the correlations indicated in table 1 below being accidental are less than 1 in a million. The correlations are slightly higher than in 2017 (figures in brackets are those for 2017) The highly significant correlation between Stoicism and many measures of well-being has now been replicated with large samples over 5 years . See appendices A, B , C and D of the full report for further information about each scale.
|Flourishing||Emotions (SPANE)||Life Satisfaction (SWL)|
|STOIC ATTITUDES AND BEHAVIOURS||.54
Table 1 Overall association of Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours with various scales (2018 Stoic Week compared to 2017 Stoic Week)
Q: OK, so that looks like a solid finding, at least for the sort of people who take part in Stoic Week. In general, Stoics are still happier than non-Stoics. I seem to recall that in previous years you also listed how Stoicism was associated with particular emotions, as measured by the SPANE scale. What were these results this year?
A: Table 2 below shows that as in 2017, there is a significant positive association between Stoicism and each positive emotion. There is also a significant negative correlation between every negative emotion and Stoicism. We can’t be so confident about which emotions are most connected with Stoicism as the differences are quite small and changeable.
Table 2 : Correlation of SABS 4.0 scores and emotions as measured in SPANE
Q: All this talk of correlation coefficients is a bit confusing for me. Can you just tell me how much difference it makes to my happiness whether I am Stoic or not?
A: Remember that these findings do not necessarily imply causation, so we can’t say that being more Stoic makes you more happy. However we can look at the group of people who are in the top and bottom 10% in terms of Stoicism and compare their well-being scores on the various scales. Table 3 below gives this information
|Top 10% SABS Average||459.3||27.2||10.7||48.3|
|Bottom 10% SABS Average||291.9||18.8||-1.0||33.7|
Table 3: Top and Bottom 10% in Stoicism and their scores in various scales (2018)
As can be seen, those in the top 10% as measured by SABS score significantly higher than the average in all well-being scales, whilst those in the lowest 10% score significantly lower. We will also see in the next report whether doing Stoicism for a week improves well-being (it has in previous years) which would support a causal explanation of this correlation.
Q: The SABS scale now covers a really wide range of Stoic attitudes and behaviours. Can you tell which items are most connected with well-being?
A: Yes, tables 4,5 and 6 below show what appear to be the most “active ingredients” in terms of Satisfaction with Life, emotions and flourishing respectively. It appears that different items are most associated with life satisfaction and emotions on the one hand and flourishing on the other. The items connected with overthinking about the past or present have a big impact of Life Satisfaction and emotions. However practical wisdom and courage and justice are more potent when it comes to flourishing.
|#||SABS Item||Satisfaction with Life correlation|
|11||I spend quite a lot of time dwelling on what has gone wrong in the past.||0.40|
|20||When I have a problem, I am good at taking constructive action in a timely manner.||0.39|
|30||I spend quite a lot of time worrying about the future.||0.35|
|53||I usually do the right thing.||0.31|
Table 4 : Most active Stoic ingredients of SWL
|20||When I have a problem, I am good at taking constructive action in a timely manner.||0.50|
|53||I usually do the right thing.||0.45|
|55||I do the right thing even when I feel afraid.||0.41|
|23||I am committed to helping my friends.||0.36|
Table 5 : Most active Stoic ingredients of Flourishing
|#||SABS Item||SPANE emotions correlations|
|11||I spend quite a lot of time dwelling on what has gone wrong in the past.||0.50|
|30||I spend quite a lot of time worrying about the future.||0.50|
|63||Even when I can’t do anything more about a problem I still worry about it a lot.||0.47|
|20||When I have a problem, I am good at taking constructive action in a timely manner.||0.40|
Table 6: Most active SABS ingredients in terms of emotions
These findings replicate previous research about the relationship between Stoicism, life satisfaction, flourishing and the emotions. A more comprehensive SABS scale (SABS4.0) has helped us to be more confident about the validity these findings.
You can download the full report, with the appendices, by clicking here.