Yona Kifer of Tel Aviv University in Israel and colleagues hypothesized that holding a position of authority might enhance subjective well-being through an increased feeling of authenticity.
In their first experiment, the researchers surveyed more than 350 participants to determine if internal feelings of power are associated with subjective well-being in different contexts: at work, with friends, or in romantic relationships.
The study, published in the journal of the Association for Psychological Science, found people who feel powerful in any context tend to be more content.
The most powerful people surveyed felt 16 percent more satisfied with their lives than the least powerful people. This effect was most pronounced in the workplace: Powerful employees were 26 percent more satisfied with their jobs than their powerless colleagues.
The power-based discrepancy in happiness was smaller for friendships and romantic relationships, perhaps because friendships are associated with a sense of community rather than hierarchy, and therefore having power in this kind of relationship is less important.
"By leading people to be true to their desires and inclinations -- to be authentic -- power leads individuals to experience greater happiness," the researchers concluded.