Understanding Well-being Data

chapter 4 Discovering ‘the new science of happiness’ and subjective well-being

Subjective well-being measures for decision-making

There have been many attempts to classify the different ways in which subjective well-being can be measured for policy purposes [1]. According to the recommendations on measuring well-being to the ONS, there are three uses for any well-being measure in policy: monitoring progress, informing policy design and policy appraisal [2]. There are also three broad types of subjective well-being measure: evaluation (global assessments), experience (feelings over time or at specific times) and eudaimonic (reports of purpose and meaning, and worthwhile things in life). Table 4.1 shows how each of the three ‘types’ of subjective well-being can be used to measure well-being in a way which best informs policy. This section walks you through the array of subjective well-being measures and methods that feature in Fig. 4.1.


  1. Kahneman and Riis 2005; Dolan et al. 2011a, b; Waldron 2010[]
  2. Dolan et al. 2011a[]