Sources of Happiness: A Mixed Methods Phenomenological Study of Factors Affecting Residents’ Subjective Wellbeing in Shenzhen, China

Maintaining cultural sensitivity has been a challenge in subjective wellbeing (SWB) research involving nonwestern populations, which continues to primarily use a quantitative approach and Western-originating measurements. Accounting for culturally specific characteristics of the study area and sample, we employed a concurrent mixed-methods phenomenological approach to uncover factors contributing to urban Chinese residents’ SWB in the context of their daily lives. Data from 65 semi-structured interviews in Shenzhen, China revealed five meta-themes, including harmony in interpersonal relationships, financial wellbeing and homeownership, health, physical and social environment, and intentional activities and mentality. Residents’ background contextual information was cross-referenced with the meta-themes to enrich data interpretation, unveiling the profound imprint of age and life stages, the broad-scale structural inequities associated with China’s household registration system, and the firm grip of traditional family core values and folk wisdom in the form of a transcendental mindset of inner peace and dignity. The results provide a contextualized understanding of the primary sources of SWB relevant to today’s urban Chinese residents, and offer valuable insight about the social-cultural complexities involved in “ordinary” Chinese residents’ pursuit of happiness that is co-shaped by individual effort, deep-rooted traditional values, and consequential social infrastructure and policies amidst the country’s deepening, transformative urbanization.



Work Title Sources of Happiness: A Mixed Methods Phenomenological Study of Factors Affecting Residents’ Subjective Wellbeing in Shenzhen, China
Open Access
  1. Deborah Kerstetter
  2. Xiangyou Shen
  3. Xiaoli Yi
  4. Bing Pan
  5. Gaojun Zhang
  6. Rui Li
  7. Jie Gao
  8. Guangming Li
  1. China
  2. Cultural sensitivity
  3. Happiness
  4. Mixed methods
  5. Phenomenological approach
  6. Socio-cultural context
  7. Sources of happiness
  8. Subjective wellbeing
  9. Urban resident
License In Copyright (Rights Reserved)
Work Type Article
  1. Psychological Reports
Publication Date November 17, 2020
Publisher Identifier (DOI)
Deposited July 21, 2022




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Work History

Version 1

  • Created
  • Added SourcesofHappinessAMixedMethodsPhenomenologicalStudyofFactorsAffectingResidentsSubjectiveWellbeinginShenzhenChina.pdf
  • Added Creator D L Kerstetter
  • Added Creator Xiangyou Shen
  • Added Creator Xiaoli Yi
  • Added Creator Bing Pan
  • Added Creator Gaojun Zhang
  • Added Creator Rui Li
  • Added Creator Jie Gao
  • Added Creator Guangming Li
  • Published
  • Updated Keyword, Publication Date Show Changes
    • China, Cultural sensitivity , Happiness, Mixed methods, Phenomenological approach, Socio-cultural context, Sources of happiness, Subjective wellbeing, Urban resident
    Publication Date
    • 2021-12-01
    • 2020-11-17
  • Renamed Creator Deborah Kerstetter Show Changes
    • D L Kerstetter
    • Deborah Kerstetter