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November 2017

Definition and Measures of Subjective Wellbeing

Definition and Measures of Subjective Wellbeing
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Definition and Measures of Subjective Wellbeing (Discussion paper 3)

Authors: Paul Dolan, Laura Kudrna and Stefano Testoni


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.

This short paper argues:

  • 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.
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