Introduction

^Notions of subjective well-being or happiness have a long tradition as central elements of quality of life, but until very recently these concepts were generally deemed beyond the scope of statistical measurement. Over the last two decades, however, an increasing body of evidence has shown that subjective well-being can be measured in surveys, that such measures are valid and reliable, and that they can usefully inform policy-making. This evidence has been reflected in an exponential growth in the economic literature on measures of subjective well-being.1

Reflecting the increasing interest in subjective well-being from both researchers and policy-makers, the Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (2009) recommended that national statistical agencies collect and publish measures of subjective well-being. In particular, the Commission noted that:

Recent research has shown that it is possible to collect meaningful and reliable data on subjective well-being. Subjective well-being encompasses three different aspects: cognitive evaluations of one’s life, positive emotions (joy, pride), and negative ones (pain, anger, worry). While these aspects of subjective well-being have different determinants, in all cases these determinants go well beyond people’s income and material conditions... All these aspects of subjective well-being should be measured separately to derive a more comprehensive measure of people’s quality of life and to allow a better understanding of its determinants (including people’s objective conditions). National statistical agencies should incorporate questions on subjective well-being in their standard surveys to capture people’s life evaluations, hedonic experiences and life priorities.2

The guidelines presented here represent a step towards making the Commission’s recommendations a reality. They are intended to provide guidance and assistance to data producers, and particularly national statistical agencies, in collecting and reporting measures of subjective well-being, as well as providing advice and assistance in the analysis of subjective well-being data to users of the data.

 
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