Flow experiences across adulthood: preliminary findings on the continuity hypothesis

Dwight C. K. Tse, Jeanne Nakamura, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
34 Downloads (Pure)


Flow experience is a psychological state characterized by simultaneous absorption, concentration, and enjoyment. Examining the change and continuity of the flow experience––an optimal state that contributes to well-being––is critical to the understanding of the lifelong trajectory of human flourishing. Nevertheless, to date there has been no systematic investigation of the relationship between age and flow experiences across adulthood. Developmental models of flow experiences suggest the continuity hypothesis that people are motivated to sustain a high level of flow experiences as long as conditions permit. We conducted two studies to investigate flow experiences among adults of different ages. Study 1 (N=1,162; age range 30–80) used longitudinal data from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) project, investigating the changes in flow experiences at work over a 10-year span. Study 2 (N=393; age range 20–82) was an online survey that examined age-related differences in flow experiences. Both studies revealed minimal relationships between age and flow experiences. Post-hoc analyses revealed no significant moderating effect of common demographics including gender, race, and education on the age–flow relationship. Taken together, these studies elucidate the "flow profile" in adulthood that is consistent with the continuity hypothesis. We discuss relations of the findings to the literature on flow experiences and well-being.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2517-2540
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Happiness Studies
Issue number6
Early online date3 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • lifespan development
  • optimal experience
  • longitudinal design
  • adult development


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