Understanding Well-being Data

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

‘Eudaimonic’ measures

Some conceive of eudaimonia as part of subjective well-being1, while others choose to conceive of subjective well-being as purely hedonic (‘happiness’, ‘life satisfaction’ and ‘affect’). Eudaimonic or ‘eudemonic’ theories conceive of people needing purpose and as having various underlying psychological needs, such as control and connectedness2. Likewise, that satisfying these needs contributes towards well-being independently of any pleasure they may bring3. These accounts draw on Aristotle’s ‘eudaimonia’ as what makes for a good life.

Psychological Well-being

In the 1960s, Harold Dupuy, psychologist at the National Center for Health Statistics, developed his Psychological General Well-being (PGWB) Schedule, a questionnaire of 68 items to measure the psychological distress of the American population. It was reduced and simplified to 18 items for introduction to a general health survey in the 1970s and then increased to 22 items to become the PGWB Index. One of the case studies in Chap. 7 uses the PGWBI, adapted again for an Italian survey.

Developed by psychologist Carol D. Ryff, the 42-item Psychological Wellbeing (PWB) Scale measures six aspects of well-being and happiness: autonomy, environmental mastery, personal growth, positive relations with others, purpose in life and self-acceptance4. Again, different versions of the scale have been adapted to suit different contexts, including an 18-item version5. Ryff and Keyes (1995) compared their eudaimonic measures with evaluations of life satisfaction and happiness, finding that self-acceptance and environmental mastery were associated, but that positive relations with others, purpose in life, personal growth and autonomy were less well correlated.

Worthwhileness and Overall Evaluation

More simply, eudaimonia is related to ideas of worthwhileness that are connected to the diagnosed psychological needs listed above and, but can also be addressed with one question, as with the ONS in Fig. 4.1. White and Dolan (2009) measured the ‘worthwhileness’ associated with activities using the DRM method. They found some discrepancies between those activities that people find ‘pleasurable’ as compared to ‘rewarding’. The example they used is that spending your time watching telly brings pleasure, but few rewards, while spending time with children is the opposite.

  1. Dolan et al. 2011a, b []
  2. Ryff 1989 []
  3. Hurka 1993 []
  4. Ryff 1989 []
  5. Ryff and Keyes 1995 []