Best practice for collecting data on directly-experienced affect involves either sampling people throughout the course of the day and recording their affective state (experience sampling method or ESM) or a detailed reconstruction of daily activity and of the associated affective states (the day reconstruction method or DRM). The former approach (ESM) is not discussed here in detail as it typically involves the use of electronic pagers or similar devices more suited to experimental research design than to official statistics. The DRM approach can be implemented in large-scale surveys containing a time-use diary and forms the basis of the experienced well-being module presented in this chapter. However, time-use diaries are expensive to collect and code, and there are times when it may be desirable to collect affect data from a general household survey. This module provides an approach to collecting affect data in such a survey and expands on the more limited range of affect questions contained in the core questions module.
There are several approaches to measuring affect in household surveys. The European Quality of Life Survey (Eurofound, 2007), for example, asks five questions about how people felt during the previous two weeks. These questions ask respondents to rate how much of the previous two weeks they experienced each feeling on a 6-point scale. Similarly, the European Social Survey has 15 questions on the respondent’s affective state over the past week, with responses on a 4-point scale. The SF-36 health measurement tool contains a set of nine items relating directly to the respondent’s affective state over the previous four weeks, also using a 6-point scale (Ware and Gandek, 1998). Five of these nine items have been included in the EU-SILC 2013 well-being module to capture affect. However, the length of the reference period in both the EQLS and SF-36 questions is potentially problematic, as errors are likely to increase with the length of the reference period.
While the four-week period used in the SF-36 is well suited for its intended purpose - assessing mental health - recall of affective states is likely to be better when the recall period is short and the question refers to a specific day (see Chapter 2). The affect questions presented in Module C, therefore, are similar in structure to those contained in the
Gallup World Poll (although also drawing on the ESS questionnaire). These questions focus specifically on the affective state of the individual on the previous day. In addition, they ask for a 0 to 10 frequency judgement, rather than requiring judgements relating to the intensity of the feeling.
The affect module includes 10 questions, largely drawn from those used in the Gallup World Poll and those used by the ONS. Four of the questions are related to positive affect and six to negative affect, reflecting the apparent potential for multi-dimensionality in negative affect in particular.