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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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Methodological considerations in the measurement of subjective well-being

The goal of the present chapter is to outline the available evidence on how survey methodology can affect subjective well-being measures and draw together what is currently known about good practice. The chapter focuses on aspects of survey design and methodology and is organised around five main themes: i) question construction; ii) response formats; iii) question context; iv) survey mode effects and wider survey context effects; and v) response styles and the cultural context in which a survey takes place. Each section is structured around the key measurement issues raised, the evidence regarding their impact, and the implications this has for survey methodology.

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