A measure of subjective well-being
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Well-being expressed by life satisfaction

According to the OECD[1], measuring wellbeing falls under 'Subjective Wellbeing Measurement and Indicators'. There are different ways of measuring wellbeing, including 'evaluative wellbeing', which we call self-assessed wellbeing. One of the measures or indicators used for evaluative wellbeing is life satisfaction, which is used by the OECD[1], among others. While many other wellbeing measures capture specific types of wellbeing (e.g. mental wellbeing or emotional wellbeing), life satisfaction captures overall human wellbeing.

Life satisfaction is measured with a single question:

"Overall, how satisfied are you with your life at the moment?". Scale: 0 (not at all satisfied) - 10 (fully satisfied)

Life satisfaction: one of the most commonly used measures of assessed well-being

There are several reasons why the life satisfaction question is appealing to use. The life satisfaction question is easy to collect, easy to answer and easy to interpret. At the same time, it is one of the most widely used well-being measures in the world and has been collected for millions of respondents in almost every country in the world, starting more than fifty years ago[2]. The question has been used in large international data collections such as the World Happiness Report, Gallup World Poll, Global Flourishing Study, OECD, European Social Survey (ESS), European Values Survey (EVS), Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe, and many surveys in Denmark.

Strong correlation between social change and life satisfaction

The issue of life satisfaction correlates broadly with many different life domains[3]. The question is predictive of many things that we would intuitively think would be associated with well-being, such as marital stability[4], [5], longevity[6], [7], [8 ] and work productivity[9], [10]. The issue is also positively associated with a number of desirable states, such as close relationships[11], [12], [13], social relationships[14], physical and mental health[15], [16], employment[17], [18 ] and social status[19], [20]. It is thus prima facie, in this specific context, the best existing single question that can capture a broad spectrum of the dimensions that affect human well-being. Life satisfaction is approximately normally distributed both overall and also for different segments of the population, including gender, age, and education (distributions in Scandinavia are shown below). The life satisfaction question has satisfactory test-retest validity[21], [22], [23], and is also satisfactorily sensitive to life changes. Furthermore, the single-item life satisfaction question measures the underlying construct as well as multiple-item life satisfaction question batteries[3], [24]. When used in practice in the context of social change (initiatives and interventions), the question should generally be asked before and after a change in a person's life situation and will require follow-up measurements to document duration.


[OECD, Ed., OECD guidelines on measuring subjective well-being. Paris, 2013.

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