Well-Being Measures for Public Policy. Ed Diener University of Illinois, and Senior Scientist, The Gallup Organization United Nations Development Program October 8, 2008. Subjective Well-Being (SWB). People’s evaluations of their lives – in both thoughts and feelings. For example:
University of Illinois, and
Senior Scientist, The Gallup Organization
United Nations Development Program
October 8, 2008
People’s evaluations of their lives – in both thoughts and feelings. For example:
Marital, work, & health satisfaction
Pleasant emotions, e.g. Joy, affection, & trust
Low negative emotions, e.g., anger & depression
Subjective well-being helps reveal the progress of societies – quality of life
It provides useful new information to policy makers
-- with some policy examples
Also SWB directly benefits societies – health, longevity, prosperity, and peace
Finally, I will answer objections
10: Best Possible Life
0: Worst Possible Life
Why not just measure income, education, and longevity – the HDI?
Green urban space
3. Need ever-expanding lists of measures to capture all elements of quality of life
How to include them all?
How to weight them?
Example: U.S.A. Cities
333 cities – many can be rated first OR last, depending on weighting of indicators!
U.S. “experts” (elites)
U.S. example: The fine arts versus roller-derby
SWB measures are democratic -- from the people -- what they value and weight
HDI Robots – educated, long-living with money
Don’t we want more than orderly worker-bees?
Don’t we also want people leading meaningful and rewarding lives?
(28 nations) 8.0 6.8 7.9
Chile 8.6 6.9 8.1
Singapore 8.4 7.1 8.0
Egypt 8.1 7.6 8.0
USA 8.1 6.7 7.6
Japan 7.4 6.6 7.8
Is happiness good?
Is it functional?
To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost.
Immune, cardiovascular, etc.
1. Nuns autobiographies at age 22
Expression of positive emotions
2. Happy and less happy nuns living in same life circumstances through lifespan
How long do they live?
Longevity inThe Nun Study
Survival Rate at Age:8594
Most Cheerful Quartile90%54%
Least Cheerful 34%11%
Longevity boost – about 10 years!
Danner, Snowdon, & Friesen
Happy live about 6 years longer
Health Expenditures .47.01
Life Satisfaction .76.65
When control GDP and Health Expenditures first:
SWB – Affect and Life Satisfaction – add
16% more variance in predicting longevity!
Life Satisfaction is consistently lower for those who have long commutes
Rising commute time resulting in higher incomes does not raise LS
1.Can’t measure “happiness” validly
-- must look at “behavior”
2. People adapt to their conditions
3. Happy pigs and happy mafia
4. Happiness is an individual affair; we don’t want paternalism
SWB measures have
Suicide (individual and national)
Physiological (brain, hormones, immune)
Informant reports (family and friends)
Reaction-time to stimuli tasks
Happiness is NOT the only value; other things matter too
For example: capabilities & functionings
Maybe, but so what?
This does not mean SWB is
not also very important!
The Gallup Organization would give the U.N. data for two (more?) years:
Well-being for public policy
Diener, Lucas, Schimmack, & Helliwell (2009), Oxford U Press
Beyond money: Toward an economy of well-being
Psychological Science in the Public Interest
Diener and Seligman, 2004
“The most authoritative
and informative book
about happiness ever ^
New Zealand 88 %Georgia 43 %
Ireland88 %Pakistan 48 %
Netherlands87 %Armenia 49 %
Costa Rica87 %Palestine 50 %
UK86 %Sierra L. 51 %
US probability sample.12
Calcutta slum dwellers.45
Calcutta sex workers.67
Lowest Life Ladder
Disease burden computations:
Paul Dolan, UK health economist