Measuring subjective well-being


This chapter aims to present best practice in measuring subjective well-being. It covers both the range of concepts to be measured and the best approaches for measuring them. This includes considering issues of sample design, survey design, data processing and coding and questionnaire design. In particular, the chapter presents a single primary measure intended to be collected consistently across countries, as well as a small group of core measures that it is desirable for data producers to collect where possible. Beyond this core suite of measures, the chapter provides more general advice to support data producers interested in identifying and measuring aspects of subjective well-being that will meet their particular research or policy needs, as well as a range of question modules relating to different aspects of subjective well-being.

The chapter has four substantive sections. The first section focuses on issues associated with planning the measurement of subjective well-being. This includes addressing the relationship between the intended policy or research use of the data and the appropriate measurement objectives. A crucial element of deciding what to measure is thinking about the relevant co-variates to be collected alongside the measures of subjective well-being to support analysis and interpretation. Section 2 of the chapter addresses survey and sample design issues. These include the choice of survey vehicle, sample design, target population, collection period and survey frequency. The third section of the chapter looks at questionnaire design, which includes both issues of question order and questionnaire structure, as well as the precise question wording. A key element of this section is the inclusion of model questions on the different aspects of subjective well-being. The final section focuses on survey implementation. This includes brief guidelines on interviewer training as well as data processing. The chapter does not, however, cover issues relating to the use and analysis of subjective well-being data in detail. These are addressed in Chapter 4 (Output and analysis of subjective well-being measures). A recurring issue throughout the chapter is the lack of standards in the methods used to gather supporting information for subjective well-being analyses, such as information about child well-being, attitudes, personality, etc. These issues are deemed to be beyond the scope of this chapter, but remain an important gap.

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