Survey vehicles

Questions on subjective well-being should not typically be the subject of a specific survey. As discussed earlier in this chapter, analytical interest in measures of subjective well-being is commonly focused on the interaction between measures of subjective well-being and measures of objective outcomes, including income, aspects of quality of life and time use. It should also be considered that, in most cases, subjective well-being measures are relatively simple and easy to collect. For example, the UK Office for National Statistics found that the four subjective well-being questions used in the Integrated Household Survey take approximately 30 seconds to complete (ONS, 2011). Even a relatively comprehensive approach to measuring subjective well-being is likely to be more on the scale of a module that could be added to existing surveys rather than requiring a whole survey questionnaire in itself. A key question to consider then is which survey vehicles are most appropriate to the task of measuring subjective well-being.

It is impossible to provide definitive guidance on this issue, because the range of household surveys collected - even among national statistical agencies - varies significantly from country to country. However, it is possible to identify the roles that different survey vehicles can play in collecting subjective well-being data. Seven classes of survey vehicle are relevant to subjective well-being and meet slightly different needs. These are:

  • • Integrated household surveys.
  • • General social surveys.
  • • Time-use surveys.
  • • Victimisation surveys.
  • • Health surveys.
  • • Special topic surveys.
  • • Panel surveys.
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