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Subjective Well-Being

Measuring Happiness, Suffering, and Other Dimensions of Experience

Editors: Arthur A. Stone and Christopher Mackie. Authors: ; ; ; .

Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); .
ISBN-13: 978-0-309-29446-1ISBN-10: 0-309-29446-0

Description

Subjective well-being refers to how people experience and evaluate their lives and specific domains and activities in their lives. This information has already proven valuable to researchers, who have produced insights about the emotional states and experiences of people belonging to different groups, engaged in different activities, at different points in the life course, and involved in different family and community structures. Research has also revealed relationships between people's self-reported, subjectively assessed states and their behavior and decisions. Research on subjective well-being has been ongoing for decades, providing new information about the human condition. During the past decade, interest in the topic among policy makers, national statistical offices, academic researchers, the media, and the public has increased markedly because of its potential for shedding light on the economic, social, and health conditions of populations and for informing policy decisions across these domains.

Subjective Well-Being: Measuring Happiness, Suffering, and Other Dimensions of Experience explores the use of this measure in population surveys. This report reviews the current state of research and evaluates methods for the measurement. In this report, a range of potential experienced well-being data applications are cited, from cost-benefit studies of health care delivery to commuting and transportation planning, environmental valuation, and outdoor recreation resource monitoring, and even to assessment of end-of-life treatment options.

Subjective Well-Being finds that, whether used to assess the consequence of people's situations and policies that might affect them or to explore determinants of outcomes, contextual and covariate data are needed alongside the subjective well-being measures. This report offers guidance about adopting subjective well-being measures in official government surveys to inform social and economic policies and considers whether research has advanced to a point which warrants the federal government collecting data that allow aspects of the population's subjective well-being to be tracked and associated with changing conditions.

Contents

This study was supported by Task Order No. N01-OD-42139 between the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the National Academy of Sciences, and award number 10000592 between the UK Economic and Social Research Council and the National Academy of Sciences. Support for the Committee on National Statistics is provided by a consortium of federal agencies through a grant from the National Science Foundation (award number SES-1024012). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.

Suggested citation:

National Research Council. (2013). Subjective Well-Being: Measuring Happiness, Suffering, and Other Dimensions of Experience. Panel on Measuring Subjective Well-Being in a Policy-Relevant Framework. A.A. Stone and C. Mackie, Editors. Committee on National Statistics, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the panel responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.

Copyright 2013 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Bookshelf ID: NBK174473PMID: 24432436DOI: 10.17226/18548

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