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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:

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Well being measures for public policy
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
Subjective Well-Being (SWB)

People’s evaluations of their lives – in both thoughts and feelings. For example:

Life satisfaction

Marital, work, & health satisfaction

Pleasant emotions, e.g. Joy, affection, & trust

Low negative emotions, e.g., anger & depression


Overview
Overview

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

9

  • Gallup

    World Poll

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

0: Worst Possible Life



Why swb
WHY SWB?

Why not just measure income, education, and longevity – the HDI?


Limitations of existing indicators including the hdi
Limitations of Existing Indicators, Including the HDI

  • What they do not measure

    e.g., Trust

    Air pollution

    Gender equality

    Job security

    Green urban space

    Crime etc.



Swb measures more than the hdi correlates of national life satisfaction
SWB measures more than the HDI:Correlates of National Life Satisfaction

  • Income .82

  • Longevity .73

  • Political stability .52

  • Trust other people .48

  • Unemployment -.44

  • Time with family/friends .41


Example crime
Example: Crime

  • Assault rate adds to the prediction of Life Satisfaction beyond the HDI


2 hdi has low ceiling differentiation only for less developed nations
2. HDI Has Low CeilingDifferentiation only for less developed nations


3. Need ever-expanding lists of measures to capture all elements of quality of life

How to include them all?

How to weight them?


How large a list
How large a list? elements of quality of life

  • Commuting time

  • Factory emissions

  • Greenery

  • Support for science

  • Literary achevements

  • Support for the arts

  • Litter rates

  • Quality of roads

  • Building safety

  • Rape rates

  • Parks

  • Tertiary education

  • Education gender equality

  • Income equality

  • Unemployment rate

  • Inflation rate

  • Political corruption

  • Business corruption

  • Child abuse

  • Infant mortality

  • Longevity

  • AIDS rates

  • School dropout rate

  • Juvenile delinquency

  • Free time

  • Youth sports participation

  • Recycling rates

  • Exercise rates

  • Consumption of junk foods

  • Consumption of animal protein

  • Locally grown produce

  • Etc

  • Etc

  • Etc

  • Etc

  • Etc

  • Etc

  • Etc

  • Etc


How to weight
How to Weight? elements of quality of life

  • Health, education, equality, crime, pollution – all weighted the same?

    Example: U.S.A. Cities

    333 cities – many can be rated first OR last, depending on weighting of indicators!


4 whose list to use
4. Whose List to Use? elements of quality of life

  • Amartye Sen; Martha Nussbaum?

    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


SWB Weights and Integrates The Things About Which People Care, the Optimal Weights, and The Direction of Influence!


5 also measurement problems with economic and other measures
5. Also measurement problems with economic and other measures

  • Subjectivity in contents – GDP

  • Missed – black & grey markets, & bartering

  • Unreliable in poor nations

  • How to integrate different approaches to measuring GNP


6 other measures miss something very important
6. Other Measures Miss measuresSomething Very Important!

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?


Why swb1
Why SWB ? measures

  • It is people’s evaluations of their lives – surely we want these to be positive! Democratic!

  • People rate it as very important, even the most important. They want it!

  • Well-being is a core component of mental health, and mental illness likely largest cause of illness-related misery in the 21st century

  • Behavioral benefits of well-being


Importance ratings 1 9
Importance Ratings (1-9) measures

HappinessWealthHealth

OVERALL

(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


Disease burden
Disease Burden measures

  • Misery burden from mental illnesses likely to be largest by 2020, yet missed by longevity statistics

    • Autism, Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder

    • This burden reflected by SWB indicators


BUT measures

Is happiness good?

Is it functional?


The error of flaubert
The Error of Flaubert measures

To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost.

Gustave Flaubert


Our research shows that happiness is beneficial flaubert 180 degrees off
Our Research Shows that Happiness is Beneficial measuresFlaubert 180 degrees off


Social benefits of being happy
Social Benefits of Being Happy measures

  • More friends

  • Better and longer marriages

  • Social capital: Trust


Work benefits
Work Benefits measures

  • Higher supervisor ratings at work

  • Better “organizational citizens”

  • Higher incomes

    • USA

    • Australia

    • Russia


Societal benefits
Societal Benefits measures

  • Volunteering

  • Pro-peace attitudes

  • Cooperative


Health benefits of swb
Health Benefits of SWB measures

1. Illness

Immune, cardiovascular, etc.

2. Longevity


Longevity the nun study danner snowden friesen u kentucky
Longevity: The Nun Study measuresDanner, Snowden, & Friesen, U Kentucky

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 in measuresThe Nun Study

Survival Rate at Age:8594

Most Cheerful Quartile 90% 54%

Least Cheerful 34% 11%

Longevity boost – about 10 years!

Danner, Snowdon, & Friesen


Psychologists
Psychologists measures

Happy live about 6 years longer


Predicting national mean life expectancy
Predicting National Mean measuresLife Expectancy

Corr.BetarB

GDP/Capita .66 .12

Health Expenditures .47 .01

Life Satisfaction .76 .65


Predicting national life expectancy
Predicting National Life Expectancy measures

When control GDP and Health Expenditures first:

SWB – Affect and Life Satisfaction – add

16% more variance in predicting longevity!


In sum national accounts of well being
In sum: measuresNational Accounts of Well-Being

  • People believe well-being is important

  • It leads to several desirable outcomes

  • It helps with social capital

  • We ought to be measuring it!


Policy examples
Policy Examples measures

  • Economics

    • Unemployment

  • Environment

    • Commuting

    • Air pollution


Slow incomplete adaptation to unemployment mostly re employed and controlling for income
Slow & Incomplete Adaptation to measuresUnemployment(Mostly Re-Employed, and Controlling for Income)


The environment commuting
The Environment: Commuting measures

Life Satisfaction is consistently lower for those who have long commutes

Rising commute time resulting in higher incomes does not raise LS


The environment smokestack emissions
The Environment: measuresSmokestack Emissions

Life satisfaction

Quasi-experimental study

in Germany


Objections
Objections measures

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


Measurement objectivity
Measurement – Objectivity? measures

SWB measures have

proven validity


The would you move diener measure of validity life evaluation ladder ideal to worst 10 to 0

Denmark 8.0 measures

Finland 7.7

Switzerland 7.5

Netherlands 7.5

Spain 7.2

Ireland 7.1

Togo 3.2

Cambodia 3.6

Sierra Leone 3.6

Georgia 3.7

Zimbabwe 3.8

West Bank 4.7

The: “Would you move?”Diener Measure of ValidityLife Evaluation LadderIdeal to Worst (10 to 0)


Measurement validity swb measures correlate with
Measurement Validity: measuresSWB Measures Correlate With:

Suicide (individual and national)

Physiological (brain, hormones, immune)

Informant reports (family and friends)

Interview ratings

Reaction-time to stimuli tasks


Surveys in economics
Surveys in Economics measures

  • Survey measures used in GNP

  • Subjective decisions about how to sum those numbers

  • Subjective reports do have issues, yes, but no more than counting

    • Examples: Education, Unemployment, Eastern bloc


Objection 2 adaptation life satisfaction disability
Objection 2: Adaptation: measuresLife Satisfaction & Disability

  • People adapt to bad and

    good conditions

    • The “Happy Poor”

    • Happy Slaves?


Adaptation
Adaptation? measures


3 happy mafia pigs
3. Happy Mafia & Pigs? measures

  • Bad people, dumb people, etc. can be happy

  • Yes, and they can be: Rich

    Educated

    Long-lived too

    Happiness is NOT the only value; other things matter too


Other values more important
Other Values More Important? measures

For example: capabilities & functionings

Maybe, but so what?

This does not mean SWB is

not also very important!


4 paternalism
4. Paternalism measures

CLAIM

  • Happiness is an individual affair, not the business of governments


Paternalism
Paternalism? measures


Conclusions
Conclusions measures

  • SWB can simultaneously reflect many desirable aspects of life

  • In addition, it is valuable for nations; it helps functioning!

  • It can be validly measured

  • It can add information for policy and individual decisions beyond existing measures


Using swb measures
Using SWB Measures measures

  • OECD

  • E.U.

  • Stats Canada

  • C.D.C. in USA


The Gallup Organization would give the U.N. data for two (more?) years:

  • Ladder for 140+ nations

  • Positive emotions of nations

  • Negative emotions (e.g., depression) of nations


References
References (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 (more?) years:

and informative book

about happiness ever ^

written”


Thank you
Thank You! (more?) years:

  • Questions?

  • Discussion?


Societal policies pleasant emotions enjoyment etc
Societal Policies? (more?) years:Pleasant Emotions—Enjoyment etc.

HighestLowest

New Zealand 88 % Georgia 43 %

Ireland 88 % Pakistan 48 %

Netherlands 87 % Armenia 49 %

Costa Rica 87 % Palestine 50 %

UK 86 % Sierra L. 51 %


Oecd nations affect balance pa na
OECD Nations Affect Balance (PA –NA) (more?) years:

WomenMen

Ireland .69 .66

New Zealand .65 .66

Sweden .65 .61

Netherlands .62 .63

Canada .62 .61

Denmark .61 .61

Australia .61 .61

Austria .61 .60

Mexico .60 .62

Norway .60 .58

Switzerland .58 .57

U.S.A. .56 .61

U.K. .56 .54

Finland .53 .52

WomenMen

Japan .53 .43

Germany .52 .56

Belgium .51 .57

France .50 .51

Poland .50 .50

Spain .48 .58

Czech Rep. .48 .50

S. Korea .44 .35

Italy .42 .42

Hungary .41 .48

Slovak Rep. .41 .39

Greece .31 .42

Portugal .30 .44

Turkey .17 .20


More on diminishing returns
More on Diminishing Returns: (more?) years:

US probability sample .12

Calcutta slum dwellers .45

Calcutta sex workers .67


15 highest on ladder
15 Highest on Ladder (more?) years:

  • Denmark 8.0

  • Finland 7.7

  • Switzerland 7.5

  • Netherlands 7.5

  • Canada 7.4

  • Norway 7.4

  • Sweden 7.4

  • Australia 7.4

  • New Zealand 7.3

  • Belgium 7.3

  • United States 7.2

  • Israel 7.2

  • Venezuela 7.2

  • Spain 7.2

  • Ireland 7.1


Lowest Life Ladder (more?) years:

  • Benin 3.3

  • Cambodia 3.6

  • Sierra Leone 3.6

  • Tanzania 3.7

  • Georgia 3.7

  • Uganda 3.7

  • Niger 3.7

  • Ethiopia 3.8

  • Burkina Faso 3.8

  • Zimbabwe 3.8

  • Cameroon 3.9

  • Madagascar 4.0

  • Kenya 4.0

  • Mali 4.0


Proposal for national indicators of well being and international indicators
Proposal for National (more?) years:Indicators of Well-Being – and International Indicators

  • Long overdue

  • Resistance – based on outmoded philosophy & data

  • Ignorance of newest findings


Health research funding
Health Research Funding (more?) years:

Disease burden computations:

  • Life Years and

  • Misery

    • Use SWB instead of Willingness-to-pay

      Paul Dolan, UK health economist


4 optimal amount can there be too much or too little
4. Optimal Amount? (more?) years:Can there be too much or too little?

Examples:

  • Divorce rate

  • Percent in science & engineering

  • Tertiary education for all


Example divorce rate
Example: Divorce Rate (more?) years:

  • Is 0 percent good?

    • No freedom

  • Is 55 percent better?

    • Unstable relationships & childrearing

  • Optimum level

    • Reflected in well-being


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