Definition and Measures of Subjective Wellbeing (Discussion paper 3)
It is enormously encouraging that so many government organisations and international bodies are recognising human wellbeing as a policy outcome – even a policy priority. This crystallises the need for good wellbeing measures.
In this short paper, I will make the folloawing points:
If something is worth measuring, it is worth measuring well.
- We need to separate the core construct of subjective wellbeing from the external factors and internal resources that influence it.
- Subjective wellbeing is a multi-dimensional construct.
- If we are going to measure subjective wellbeing well, we need a multi-dimensional measure.
- For policy purposes, we need to identify the levers of change for different dimensions of wellbeing.
- This requires good measures of the external factors and internal resources that have the greatest influence on subjective wellbeing, along with a good multi-dimensional measure of subjective wellbeing itself.
More about this Measuring Wellbeing discussion series
These discussion papers draw from a range of experts on approaches to measuring wellbeing. The intention is to promote debate and thought.
Views expressed do not necessarily represent the What Works Centre for Wellbeing.
Why ignite discussion about measuring wellbeing?
In our role as an independent collaborating centre and thought leader, the What Works Centre for Wellbeing brings together the disparate theoretical threads to draw out what this means, practically, for decision makers. The Centre recognises wellbeing as a multi-dimensional concept, where a range of definitions and measures may apply and are useful for different purposes.
We don’t have just one measure of health or illness; we have many different tools designed to help us understand each in different situations. We’d like to encourage discussion of how different approaches to understanding and measuring wellbeing might be applied as ‘the best tool for the job’ in different situations as well.
This series of discussion papers includes inputs from leaders in the field. It draws together views of how we could define and measure wellbeing and use this in decision-making in different sectors across UK.
What does this mean for me?
These discussion papers are mainly aimed at analysts, wanting to understand the latest thinking and theoretical underpinnings. However, the accompanying blog and ‘Practical Guides’ are aimed at all audiences who may be considering how to put wellbeing into practice.
We hope that this paper and series will prompt discussion and bring these methods to life, so we can put these into practice.