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New Frontiers in
Subjective Well-being Measurement
Romina Boarini, Director
CENTRE FOR WELL-BEING, INCLUSION,
SUSTAINABILITY AND EQUAL
OPPORTUNITY (WISE)
4 March 2024
Surge in academic publications on subjective well-being
measures
Number of academic papers published with each word in the abstract, title or keyword
Source: Scopus abstract and citation database; refers to Elsevier publications only.
0
1000
2000
3000
4000
5000
6000
7000
8000
9000
10000
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
Life Satisfaction Happiness Subjective Well-being Flourishing
OECD
Guidelines
published
OECD Well-
being Framework
developed
Growing interest in using subjective well-being to
understand how people experience global challenges,
including ...
 Unpacking the
impacts of pandemic
 Navigating the
digital transition
 Facing geopolitical
insecurity and
conflict
 Addressing climate
change
Younger people are more likely to be emotionally
affected by climate change than are older people
0%
5%
10%
15%
20%
25%
30%
35%
Afraid Anxious Despair Ashamed Depressed
Ages 18-24 Age 65+
Reported feelings on climate change in OECD 12, share of respondents, 2022
Source: OECD, 2023
Expansion of policy use and relevance of these data
 Monitor important trends in
how people experience, and
feel about, their lives, which
can help predict behaviours
 Monitor society’s pulse to
see where problems and
challenges are developing
 Support policy design,
evaluation and cost-benefit
analyses
New methodologies for assessing subjective well-being
in real time
Source: Statistics New Zealand, 2022
Source: INEGI, 2023
Using Twitter (X) data Using Google Trends
Source: Murtin, forthcoming
Source: Woloszko, 2020
Increased attention from the private sector
Both globally …
… and in OECD initiatives
Source: OECD, 2022
Use of subjective well-being metrics in OECD analysis
and advice
OECD Well-being
Framework
OECD (2020) How’s Life? 2020: Measuring Well-
being, OECD Publishing, Paris
https://doi.org/10.1787/23089679
www.oecd.org/howslife
• multidimensional
approach
• includes objective
and subjective
aspects
• both averages
and inequalities
What is subjective well-being?
Sub-components Family life satisfaction Anger Competence
Health satisfaction Worry Autonomy
Work satisfaction Happiness Meaning and purpose
Culture
Determinants
Income
Health status
Social contact
Employment status
Personality type
Life evaluation Affect (+/-) Eudaimonic well-being
Measurement concept
Good mental states, including all of the various evaluations,
positive and negative, that people make of their lives, and the
affective reactions of people to their experiences.
Core recommendations from the original Guidelines
One measure of positive affect
Two measures of negative affect
Life
satisfaction
Eudaimonia
Impact of the Guidelineson well-being frameworks
across OECD countries
AUS AUS AUS
AUT AUT
BEL BEL
BEL
CAN CAN
CAN
CAN
CHE CHE
CHE
CHL CHL
CHL
DEU
ESP ESP
ESP
ESP
FIN FIN
FIN
FRA FRA
GBR GBR
GBR
GBR
IRL IRL
IRL
ISL
ISL
ISR
ISR
ISR
ISR
ITA
ITA
ITA
JPN
JPN
KOR
KOR
KOR
LUX
LUX
LVA
LVA
MEX
MEX
MEX
MEX
NLD
NLD
NLD
NOR
NOR
NOR
NOR
NZL
NZL
NZL
NZL
POL
PRT
PRT
SVN
SWE
SWE
0%
20%
40%
60%
80%
100%
Total with any SWB
indicator
Life Evaluation Affect Eudaimonia Total with no SWB
indicators
Of the countries who have developed a national well-being approach, the share that include
subjective well-being indicators (and if so, by type), and the share that do not
Impact on data collection: life satisfaction is largely
harmonised, in line with the Guidelines
0%
20%
40%
60%
80%
100%
Comparable to OECD
core module
Not comparable to
OECD core module
Do not collect life
satisfaction
0%
20%
40%
60%
80%
100%
Quarterly
or monthly
Annually Biennially More than
biennially,
or irregular
Irregular or
one-off
Do not
collect
Share of countries collecting life satisfaction
indicators, by type
Share of countries collecting life satisfaction
indicators, by frequency
0%
20%
40%
60%
80%
100%
Any
Differs
from
core
Same
as
core
MHI-5
EVI
WEMWBS
None
Individual
question
Mental health screening
tools
0%
20%
40%
60%
80%
100%
Any
Differs
from
core
Same
as
core
MHI-5
GAD-7
or
GAD-2
K6
PHQ-4
Washington
Group
EST-5
Individual
question
Mental health screening tools
0%
20%
40%
60%
80%
100%
Any
Differs
from
core
Same
as
core
PHQ-9
-8
-2
PHQ-4
K6
MHI-5
Washington
Group
None
Individual
question
Mental health screening tools
Countries are collecting recommended emotional
states, but with a range of different tools
Happy
(happy, cheerful)
Worried
(worried, nervous, anxious)
Depressed
(depressed, sad, unhappy, downhearted)
Share of countries collecting data on each affective item
There is little harmonisation when measuring
eudaimonia
0%
20%
40%
60%
80%
100%
Meaning:
meaning or purpose;
worthwhile; value; of use
Hope:
hope for future; optimistic
Self-determination:
Sense of control; autonomy
to decide how to live life;
confident to think or express
your own ideas andopinions
Coping:
Able to deal withproblems
Self-esteem:
positive about self; like parts
of personality
Share of countries collecting eudaimonic indicators, by theme
The path forward: developing a measurement agenda
 Changes in practice and advances in research highlight
opportunities to reinforce, and expand the Guidelines
 Delve into key areas to update core recommendations and
develop new extended or experimental modules, guided by:
 Consistency
 Brevity
 Value-add
 Updated publication expected 2025
Refining existing measurement recommendations
 Scope the literature on additional
affective states, to assess policy
relevance
 Understand the most effective way of
framing affective questions, and the
most appropriate survey vehicle
 Ensure complementarities with
existing OECD recommendations on
mental health measurement
On affect On eudaimonia
 Review new evidence on “meaning
and purpose” to better understand the
policy use, and relevance, of this
indicator
 Overview conceptual approaches to
identify additional concepts that may
supplement our understanding of
eudaimonic well-being
New thematic areas:
A focus on children and young people
Source: OECD Child Well-being Dashboard
 Existing OECD work on
child well-being has
identified measurement
gaps for future work
 Many existing measures of
subjective well-being are
collected for adolescents
 A need to develop
measures for the under-15
population; and to
develop metrics across
developmental stages
New thematic areas:
Globally inclusive approaches to measurement
 Evidence base may be overly focused
on non-representative samples  are
recommendations truly globally
inclusive?
 What lessons can be gleaned from
broadening the literature base: both
across countries and geographic regions,
as well as specific population groups
within countries?
 Identify existing measurement
instruments, and review their statistical
properties
Source: Te Kupenga, 2013
Agenda for today
9.20-10.20 Revisiting affect: Which states to measure, and how?
10.20-10.30 Coffee break
10.30-11.30 Towards a more comprehensive measure of eudaimonia
11.30-12.30 Measuring subjective well-being in children and young people
12.30-14.30 Break for lunch
14.30-15.30 A better understanding of domain satisfaction
15.30-15.45 Coffee break
15.45-16.50 Globally inclusive approaches to measurement
16.50-17.00 How to use subjective well-being data in policy
Stay connected with WISE
Centre on Well-being, Inclusion, Sustainability and Equal Opportunity (WISE):
- https://www.oecd.org/wise/
Our work on subjective well-being:
• Policy insights: https://doi.org/10.1787/f5199579-en
- Working paper: https://doi.org/10.1787/4e180f51-en
- Original Guidelines: https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264191655-en
Further questions:
- jessica.mahoney@oecd.org

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1 Intro_Measuring SWB_Romina_Boarini.pdf

  • 1. New Frontiers in Subjective Well-being Measurement Romina Boarini, Director CENTRE FOR WELL-BEING, INCLUSION, SUSTAINABILITY AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITY (WISE) 4 March 2024
  • 2. Surge in academic publications on subjective well-being measures Number of academic papers published with each word in the abstract, title or keyword Source: Scopus abstract and citation database; refers to Elsevier publications only. 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000 9000 10000 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 Life Satisfaction Happiness Subjective Well-being Flourishing OECD Guidelines published OECD Well- being Framework developed
  • 3. Growing interest in using subjective well-being to understand how people experience global challenges, including ...  Unpacking the impacts of pandemic  Navigating the digital transition  Facing geopolitical insecurity and conflict  Addressing climate change Younger people are more likely to be emotionally affected by climate change than are older people 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% Afraid Anxious Despair Ashamed Depressed Ages 18-24 Age 65+ Reported feelings on climate change in OECD 12, share of respondents, 2022 Source: OECD, 2023
  • 4. Expansion of policy use and relevance of these data  Monitor important trends in how people experience, and feel about, their lives, which can help predict behaviours  Monitor society’s pulse to see where problems and challenges are developing  Support policy design, evaluation and cost-benefit analyses
  • 5. New methodologies for assessing subjective well-being in real time Source: Statistics New Zealand, 2022 Source: INEGI, 2023 Using Twitter (X) data Using Google Trends Source: Murtin, forthcoming Source: Woloszko, 2020
  • 6. Increased attention from the private sector Both globally … … and in OECD initiatives Source: OECD, 2022
  • 7. Use of subjective well-being metrics in OECD analysis and advice
  • 8. OECD Well-being Framework OECD (2020) How’s Life? 2020: Measuring Well- being, OECD Publishing, Paris https://doi.org/10.1787/23089679 www.oecd.org/howslife • multidimensional approach • includes objective and subjective aspects • both averages and inequalities
  • 9. What is subjective well-being? Sub-components Family life satisfaction Anger Competence Health satisfaction Worry Autonomy Work satisfaction Happiness Meaning and purpose Culture Determinants Income Health status Social contact Employment status Personality type Life evaluation Affect (+/-) Eudaimonic well-being Measurement concept Good mental states, including all of the various evaluations, positive and negative, that people make of their lives, and the affective reactions of people to their experiences.
  • 10. Core recommendations from the original Guidelines One measure of positive affect Two measures of negative affect Life satisfaction Eudaimonia
  • 11. Impact of the Guidelineson well-being frameworks across OECD countries AUS AUS AUS AUT AUT BEL BEL BEL CAN CAN CAN CAN CHE CHE CHE CHL CHL CHL DEU ESP ESP ESP ESP FIN FIN FIN FRA FRA GBR GBR GBR GBR IRL IRL IRL ISL ISL ISR ISR ISR ISR ITA ITA ITA JPN JPN KOR KOR KOR LUX LUX LVA LVA MEX MEX MEX MEX NLD NLD NLD NOR NOR NOR NOR NZL NZL NZL NZL POL PRT PRT SVN SWE SWE 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Total with any SWB indicator Life Evaluation Affect Eudaimonia Total with no SWB indicators Of the countries who have developed a national well-being approach, the share that include subjective well-being indicators (and if so, by type), and the share that do not
  • 12. Impact on data collection: life satisfaction is largely harmonised, in line with the Guidelines 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Comparable to OECD core module Not comparable to OECD core module Do not collect life satisfaction 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Quarterly or monthly Annually Biennially More than biennially, or irregular Irregular or one-off Do not collect Share of countries collecting life satisfaction indicators, by type Share of countries collecting life satisfaction indicators, by frequency
  • 13. 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Any Differs from core Same as core MHI-5 EVI WEMWBS None Individual question Mental health screening tools 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Any Differs from core Same as core MHI-5 GAD-7 or GAD-2 K6 PHQ-4 Washington Group EST-5 Individual question Mental health screening tools 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Any Differs from core Same as core PHQ-9 -8 -2 PHQ-4 K6 MHI-5 Washington Group None Individual question Mental health screening tools Countries are collecting recommended emotional states, but with a range of different tools Happy (happy, cheerful) Worried (worried, nervous, anxious) Depressed (depressed, sad, unhappy, downhearted) Share of countries collecting data on each affective item
  • 14. There is little harmonisation when measuring eudaimonia 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Meaning: meaning or purpose; worthwhile; value; of use Hope: hope for future; optimistic Self-determination: Sense of control; autonomy to decide how to live life; confident to think or express your own ideas andopinions Coping: Able to deal withproblems Self-esteem: positive about self; like parts of personality Share of countries collecting eudaimonic indicators, by theme
  • 15. The path forward: developing a measurement agenda  Changes in practice and advances in research highlight opportunities to reinforce, and expand the Guidelines  Delve into key areas to update core recommendations and develop new extended or experimental modules, guided by:  Consistency  Brevity  Value-add  Updated publication expected 2025
  • 16. Refining existing measurement recommendations  Scope the literature on additional affective states, to assess policy relevance  Understand the most effective way of framing affective questions, and the most appropriate survey vehicle  Ensure complementarities with existing OECD recommendations on mental health measurement On affect On eudaimonia  Review new evidence on “meaning and purpose” to better understand the policy use, and relevance, of this indicator  Overview conceptual approaches to identify additional concepts that may supplement our understanding of eudaimonic well-being
  • 17. New thematic areas: A focus on children and young people Source: OECD Child Well-being Dashboard  Existing OECD work on child well-being has identified measurement gaps for future work  Many existing measures of subjective well-being are collected for adolescents  A need to develop measures for the under-15 population; and to develop metrics across developmental stages
  • 18. New thematic areas: Globally inclusive approaches to measurement  Evidence base may be overly focused on non-representative samples  are recommendations truly globally inclusive?  What lessons can be gleaned from broadening the literature base: both across countries and geographic regions, as well as specific population groups within countries?  Identify existing measurement instruments, and review their statistical properties Source: Te Kupenga, 2013
  • 19. Agenda for today 9.20-10.20 Revisiting affect: Which states to measure, and how? 10.20-10.30 Coffee break 10.30-11.30 Towards a more comprehensive measure of eudaimonia 11.30-12.30 Measuring subjective well-being in children and young people 12.30-14.30 Break for lunch 14.30-15.30 A better understanding of domain satisfaction 15.30-15.45 Coffee break 15.45-16.50 Globally inclusive approaches to measurement 16.50-17.00 How to use subjective well-being data in policy
  • 20. Stay connected with WISE Centre on Well-being, Inclusion, Sustainability and Equal Opportunity (WISE): - https://www.oecd.org/wise/ Our work on subjective well-being: • Policy insights: https://doi.org/10.1787/f5199579-en - Working paper: https://doi.org/10.1787/4e180f51-en - Original Guidelines: https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264191655-en Further questions: - jessica.mahoney@oecd.org