Special topic surveys
Many national statistical agencies run one-off or periodic special topic surveys that are intended to explore a topic in greater detail than would be possible through a question module in a regular survey. Because the content of such a survey can be tailored to the topic in question, such surveys are excellent vehicles for exploring aspects of subjective well-being in more depth. Issues relating to the relationship between different aspects of subjective well-being (i.e. life evaluation, affect, eudaimonic well-being), and between single-item and multiple-item measures of subjective well-being can be examined with such data. However, because of the “one-off” nature of such surveys (or the long periodicity associated with such surveys when they do repeat), special topic surveys are less appropriate for monitoring well-being over time.
Panel surveys follow the same individuals over time, re-interviewing them in each wave of the survey. Because of this, panel surveys are able to examine questions of causality in a way that is not possible with cross-sectional surveys. Both the German Socio-Economic Panel (GSOEP) and Understanding Society (formerly the British Household Panel Survey) have included questions on subjective well-being for some time, and much of the evidence on the nature of the relationship between life evaluations and their determinants derives from these surveys.