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OECD Guidelines on Measuring Subjective Well-being

image of OECD Guidelines on Measuring Subjective Well-being

Being able to measure people’s quality of life is fundamental when assessing the progress of societies. There is now widespread acknowledgement that measuring subjective well-being is an essential part of measuring quality of life alongside other social and economic dimensions. As a first step to improving the measures of quality of life, the OECD has produced Guidelines which provide advice on the collection and use of measures of subjective well-being.  These Guidelines have been produced as part of the OECD Better Life Initiative, a pioneering project launched in 2011, with the objective to measure society’s progress across eleven domains of well-being, ranging from jobs, health and housing, through to civic engagement and the environment.

These Guidelines represent the first attempt to provide international recommendations on collecting, publishing, and analysing subjective well-being data. They provide guidance on collecting information on people's evaluations and experiences of life, as well as on collecting “eudaimonic” measures of psychological well-being. The Guidelines also outline why measures of subjective well-being are relevant for monitoring and policy making, and why national statistical agencies have a critical role to play in enhancing the usefulness of existing measures. They identify the best approaches for measuring, in a reliable and consistent way, the various dimensions of subjective well-being, and provide guidance for reporting on such measures. The Guidelines also include a number of prototype survey modules on subjective well-being that national and international agencies can use in their surveys.

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Measuring subjective well-being

This chapter aims to present best practice in measuring subjective well-being. It covers both the range of concepts to be measured and the best approaches for measuring them. This includes considering issues of sample design, survey design, data processing and coding and questionnaire design. In particular, the chapter presents a single primary measure intended to be collected consistently across countries, as well as a small group of core measures that it is desirable for data producers to collect where possible. Beyond this core suite of measures, the chapter provides more general advice to support data producers interested in identifying and measuring aspects of subjective well-being that will meet their particular research or policy needs, as well as a range of question modules relating to different aspects of subjective well-being.

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