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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

slide4
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
slide12
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?
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • 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

slide16
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 Something 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 ?
  • 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)

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
  • 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
slide22
BUT

Is happiness good?

Is it functional?

the error of flaubert
The Error of Flaubert

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

Gustave Flaubert

social benefits of being happy
Social Benefits of Being Happy
  • More friends
  • Better and longer marriages
  • Social capital: Trust
work benefits
Work Benefits
  • Higher supervisor ratings at work
  • Better “organizational citizens”
  • Higher incomes
      • USA
      • Australia
      • Russia
societal benefits
Societal Benefits
  • Volunteering
  • Pro-peace attitudes
  • Cooperative
health benefits of swb
Health Benefits of SWB

1. Illness

Immune, cardiovascular, etc.

2. Longevity

longevity the nun study danner snowden friesen u kentucky
Longevity: The Nun Study Danner, 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?

slide31
Longevity inThe 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

Happy live about 6 years longer

predicting national mean life expectancy
Predicting National Mean Life Expectancy

Corr.BetarB

GDP/Capita .66 .12

Health Expenditures .47 .01

Life Satisfaction .76 .65

predicting national life expectancy
Predicting National Life Expectancy

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: National 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
  • Economics
    • Unemployment
  • Environment
    • Commuting
    • Air pollution
slow incomplete adaptation to unemployment mostly re employed and controlling for income
Slow & Incomplete Adaptation to Unemployment(Mostly Re-Employed, and Controlling for Income)
the environment commuting
The Environment: Commuting

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: Smokestack Emissions

Life satisfaction

Quasi-experimental study

in Germany

objections
Objections

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?

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

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:SWB 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
  • 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:Life Satisfaction & Disability
  • People adapt to bad and

good conditions

    • The “Happy Poor”
    • Happy Slaves?
3 happy mafia pigs
3. Happy Mafia & Pigs?
  • 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?

For example: capabilities & functionings

Maybe, but so what?

This does not mean SWB is

not also very important!

4 paternalism
4. Paternalism

CLAIM

  • Happiness is an individual affair, not the business of governments
conclusions
Conclusions
  • 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
  • OECD
  • E.U.
  • Stats Canada
  • C.D.C. in USA
slide53
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

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

slide55
“The most authoritative

and informative book

about happiness ever ^

written”

thank you
Thank You!
  • Questions?
  • Discussion?
societal policies pleasant emotions enjoyment etc
Societal Policies?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)

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:

US probability sample .12

Calcutta slum dwellers .45

Calcutta sex workers .67

15 highest on ladder
15 Highest on Ladder
  • 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
slide63
Lowest Life Ladder
  • 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 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

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?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
  • Is 0 percent good?
    • No freedom
  • Is 55 percent better?
    • Unstable relationships & childrearing
  • Optimum level
    • Reflected in well-being
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