The relationship between life evaluation, affect and eudaimonia

Life evaluation, positive and negative affect and eudaimonic well-being are all conceptually distinct. However, it is helpful to have a conceptual model of how they might relate to each other. Figure 1.1 provides a simple model of the different elements of a measurement framework for subjective well-being. The model emphasises three dimensions involved in the measurement of subjective well-being. These are: 1) the measurement concept; 2) the sub-components of well-being; and 3) determinants. It should be noted that the list of determinants and sub-components in Figure 1.1 is illustrative rather than exhaustive. The purpose of the conceptual model presented in Figure 1.1 is not to provide a comprehensive framework covering all possible elements of subjective well-being. Rather, it is intended to serve as an organising framework for thinking about the scope of the topics covered by these guidelines. This is necessarily focused on a narrower range of measures than might be found in an academic survey of

Figure 1.1. A simple model of subjective well-being

human well-being, and reflects the topics most likely to be of relevance for official statistics and policy-making. There is also a significant bias towards those concepts that underpin the measures traditionally used in large-scale surveys.

Figure 1.1 outlines the various elements of a simple measurement framework for subjective well-being. However, it is also useful to briefly review the empirical relationship between the three types of measures. There is extensive evidence on the relationship between measures of affect and overall measures of life evaluation. Diener, Kahneman, Tov and Arora (in Diener, Helliwell and Kahneman, 2010) show that there is a high correlation (0.82) across countries between the most commonly used average measures of life evaluation, but a much lower correlation (0.55-0.62) between average affect balance and either of two life evaluation measures (life satisfaction and the Cantril Ladder). Similarly, at the individual level, Kahneman and Krueger (2006) report only a moderate correlation (0.38) between life satisfaction (an evaluative measure) and net affect.

There is also a body of evidence on the empirical relationship between eudaimonic well-being and the other aspects of subjective well-being, which suggests that this correlation is smaller than in the case of the relationship between affect and life evaluations. Clarke and Senik (2011), for example, report a correlation between life satisfaction and four different aspects of eudaimonic well-being of between 0.25 and 0.29. Diener et al. (2009) report a correlation of 0.62 (N = 563, p < 0.001) between their Psychological Well-Being Scale and the evaluative Satisfaction with Life Scale, and correlations of 0.62 and 0.51 respectively between the Psychological Well-Being Scale and the positive and negative subscales of the Scale of Positive and Negative Experience (N = 563, p < 0.001 in all cases). Huppert and So (2009) found a correlation of 0.32 between flourishing and life satisfaction in European Social Survey data. Among the European Social Survey sample overall, 12.2% met the criteria for flourishing, and 17.7% met the criteria for high life satisfaction, but the percentage for both flourishing and high life satisfaction was 7.2%.

Table 1.1 gives the correlations between individual measures of life evaluation derived from the Gallup World Poll (life satisfaction), positive affect, negative affect and eudaimonic well-being (purpose) across 362 000 respondents in 34 OECD countries. The correlation is highest between the two measures of affect, at -0.3855, and lowest between purpose and negative affect, at -0.091. Life satisfaction has a correlation of about 0.23 with both measures of affect, and of 0.13 with purpose. While all the coefficients in Table 1.1 show the expected sign and all are significant at the 0.1% level, none of the measures have a correlation near 1, indicating that the different measures capture different underlying phenomena.

Table 1.1. Correlation coefficients among purpose, life satisfaction, positive affect and negative affect at the individual level, 2006-10

Purpose

Life satisfaction

Positive affect

Negative affect

Purpose

1.000

Life satisfaction

0.134

1.000

Positive affect

0.142

0.229

1.000

Negative affect

-0.091

-0.231

-0.3855

1.000

Note: The precise measures used are the so-called “Cantril Ladder” for life satisfaction, an “important purpose” in life for purpose, and the sum of “yes” responses to smiled yesterday, experienced joy yesterday, and was well rested yesterday for positive affect and an equivalent index based on experience of sadness, worry and depression for negative affect.

Source: GallupWorld Poll.

 
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