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: Life satisfaction Marital, work, & health satisfaction Pleasant emotions, e.g. Joy, affection, & trust Low negative emotions, e.g., anger & depression

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 ‡ Gallup World Poll 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0: Worst Possible Life .

Culture and Well-Being .

and longevity ± the HDI? . education.WHY SWB? Why not just measure income.

.Limitations of Existing Indicators. . What they do not measure e. Including the HDI 1. Trust Air pollution Gender equality Job security Green urban space Crime etc.g.

Affect over Neg. . Ar eni nk Affect .) Hondur s 6 4 G z / .4 .7 .Characteristics of Nations Missed by HDI? l nce (Pos.9 1. .3 .5 . UNDP H Devel ent Index ( 3) .6 .

41 .82 .SWB measures more than the HDI: Correlates of National Life Satisfaction ‡ Income ‡ Longevity ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ Political stability Trust other people Unemployment Time with family/friends .44 .73 .52 .48 -.

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 .

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? ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ 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 E ercise rates Consumption of junk foods Consumption of animal protein Locally grown produce Etc Etc Etc Etc Etc Etc Etc Etc   .

A. equality. depending on weighting of indicators! .S.How to Weight? ‡ Health. Cities 333 cities ± many can be rated first OR last. crime. education. pollution ± all weighted the same? Example: U.

Martha Nussbaum? U. ³experts´ (elites) U. example: The fine arts versus rollerderby SWB measures are democratic -.S. Whose List to Use? ‡ Amartye Sen.what they value and weight .S.4.from the people -.

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

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 .5.

long-living with money Don¶t we want more than orderly worker-bees? Don¶t we also want people leading meaningful and rewarding lives? . Other Measures Miss Something Very Important! HDI Robots ± educated.6.

They want it! ‡ Well-being is a core component of mental health. even the most important.Why SWB ? ‡ It is people¶s evaluations of their lives ± surely we want these to be positive! Democratic! ‡ People rate it as very important. and mental illness likely largest cause of illnessrelated misery in the 21st century ‡ Behavioral benefits of well-being .

0 7.8 .6 7.0 8.9 7.Importance Ratings (1-9) Happiness OVERALL (28 nations) Chile Singapore Egypt USA Japan Wealth Health 8.1 8.1 8.6 7.6 6.1 7.6 8.8 6.9 8.0 8.1 7.7 6.4 8.4 6.

Schizophrenia.Disease Burden ‡ Misery burden from mental illnesses likely to be largest by 2020. bipolar disorder ± This burden reflected by SWB indicators . yet missed by longevity statistics ± Autism.

BUT Is happiness good? Is it functional? .

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Gustave Flaubert . selfish.The Error of Flaubert To be stupid. all is lost. though if stupidity is lacking. and have good health are three requirements for happiness.

Our Research Shows that Happiness is Beneficial Flaubert 180 degrees off .

Social Benefits of Being Happy ‡ More friends ‡ Better and longer marriages ‡ Social capital: Trust .

Work Benefits ‡ Higher supervisor ratings at work ‡ Better ³organizational citizens´ ‡ Higher incomes ‡ USA ‡ Australia ‡ Russia .

Societal Benefits ‡ Volunteering ‡ Pro-peace attitudes ‡ Cooperative .

cardiovascular. 2.Health Benefits of SWB 1. Illness Immune. Longevity . etc.

Happy and less happy nuns living in same life circumstances through lifespan How long do they live? . U Kentucky . Nuns autobiographies at age 22 E pression of positive emotions 2. Snowden.Longevity: The Nun Study Danner. & Friesen.

Snowdon. & Friesen .Longevity in The Nun Study Survival Rate at Age: Most Cheerful Quartile Least Cheerful 85 90% 34% 94 54% 11% Longevity boost ± about 10 years! Danner.

Psychologists Happy live about 6 years longer .

47 .01 .65 .Predicting National Mean Life Expectancy Corr.12 .66 . r GDP/Capita Health Expenditures Life Satisfaction .76 Beta B .

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 ‡ People believe well-being is important ‡ It leads to several desirable outcomes ‡ It helps with social capital ‡ We ought to be measuring it! .

Policy E amples ‡ Economics ± Unemployment ‡ Environment ± Commuting ± Air pollution .

6 6. Fired 1 Yr.2 7 6.4 6.8 Past Prior Yr.8 6.2 6 5.Slow & Incomplete Adaptation to Unemployment (Mostly Re-Employed. . 3 Yrs. and Controlling for Income) 7.

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 Life satisfaction Quasi-experimental study in Germany .

Can¶t measure ³happiness´ validly -. People adapt to their conditions 3. we don¶t want paternalism .Objections 1. Happy pigs and happy mafia 4. Happiness is an individual affair.must look at ³behavior´ 2.

Measurement ± Objectivity? SWB measures have proven validity .

8 4.1 Togo Cambodia Sierra Leone Georgia Zimbabwe West Bank 3.5 7.0 7.7 3.7 .The: ³Would you move?´ Diener Measure of Validity Life Evaluation Ladder Ideal to Worst ( 0 to 0) Denmark Finland Switzerland Netherlands Spain Ireland 8.5 7.2 7.2 3.6 3.7 7.6 3.

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 ‡ Survey measures used in GNP ‡ Subjective decisions about how to sum those numbers ‡ Subjective reports do have issues. but no more than counting ‡ E amples: Education. Unemployment. Eastern bloc . yes.

Objection 2: Adaptation: Life Satisfaction & Disability ‡ People adapt to bad and good conditions ±The ³Happy Poor´ ±Happy Slaves? .

-2 Yrs. +5 Yrs.6 6. -1 Yr.8 -2 Yrs.2 7 6. .4 6. +3 Yrs.8 6.Adaptation? 7. 0 +1 Yr.2 6 5.

etc. dumb people. and they can be: Rich Educated Long-lived too Happiness is NOT the only value. can be happy ‡ Yes. other things matter too . Happy Mafia & Pigs? ‡ Bad people.3.

Other Values More Important? For example: capabilities & functionings Maybe. but so what? This does not mean SWB is not also very important! .

not the business of governments .4. Paternalism CLAIM ‡ Happiness is an individual affair.

Paternalism? 94 % of Danes are Above Percent of Respondents 97 % of Togolese 50 40 30 20 10 0 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 DENMARK TOGO Ladder of Life Scores .

it is valuable for nations.Conclusions ‡ SWB can simultaneously reflect many desirable aspects of life ‡ In addition. it helps functioning! ‡ It can be validly measured ‡ It can add information for policy and individual decisions beyond existing measures .

D.C. Stats Canada C.U.Using SWB Measures ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ OECD E. in USA .

data for two (more?) years: ‡ Ladder for 140+ nations ‡ Positive emotions of nations ‡ Negative emotions (e.g.. depression) of nations .N.The Gallup Organization would give the U.

References
Well-being for public policy Diener, Lucas, Schimmack, & Helliwell (200 ), Oxford U Press Beyond money: Toward an economy of well-being Psychological Science in the Public Interest Diener and Seligman, 200

³The most authoritative and informative book about happiness ever written´

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Thank You!
‡Questions? ‡Discussion?

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Highest New Zealand Ireland Netherlands Costa Rica UK 88 % 88 % 87 % 87 % 86 % Lowest Georgia Pakistan Armenia Palestine Sierra L.Societal Policies? Pleasant Emotions²Enjoyment etc. 43 % 48 % 49 % 50 % 51 % .

60 .50 .50 .57 .56 .58 .35 .52 Japan Germany Belgium France Poland Spain Czech Rep.56 .S.51 . U.61 .30 .62 .61 .50 .42 .62 .44 .61 .41 .58 .61 .K.43 .56 .48 .OECD Nations Affect Balance (PA ±NA) Women Men Ireland New Zealand Sweden Netherlands Canada Denmark Australia Austria Mexico Norway Switzerland U.62 .48 .44 . Greece Portugal Turkey Women Men .61 . S.58 .A.53 .42 .60 .65 .52 .66 .66 .48 .50 .20 .51 .41 .42 .60 .54 .39 .61 .57 .61 .63 .53 .31 .61 . Korea Italy Hungary Slovak Rep.17 . Finland .65 .69 .

45 .67 .More on Diminishing Returns: US probability sample .12 Calcutta slum dwellers Calcutta sex workers .

0 7.4 7.1 .2 7.4 7.4 7.4 7.7 7.5 7.3 7.15 Highest on Ladder ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ Denmark Finland Switzerland Netherlands Canada Norway Sweden Australia New Zealand Belgium United States Israel Venezuela Spain Ireland 8.2 7.5 7.2 7.2 7.3 7.

7 3.8 3.6 3.3 3.8 3.7 3.Lowest Life Ladder ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ Benin Cambodia Sierra Leone Tanzania Georgia Uganda Niger Ethiopia Burkina Faso Zimbabwe Cameroon Madagascar Kenya Mali 3.0 4.7 3.7 3.6 3.0 .9 4.8 3.0 4.

2 .9 8 Global Judgment of Life (Ladder) 7 6 5 Latvia Sri Lanka Armenia 4 Cambodia 3 .4 Benin .0 Georgia UNDP Human Development Index (2003) .6 .5 .7 .3 .9 1.8 .

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 Disease burden computations: ‡ Life Years and ‡ Misery ± Use SWB instead of Willingness-to-pay Paul Dolan. UK health economist .

Optimal Amount? Can there be too much or too little? Examples: ‡ Divorce rate ‡ Percent in science & engineering ‡ Tertiary education for all .4.

Example: Divorce Rate ‡ Is 0 percent good? ± No freedom ‡ Is 55 percent better? ± Unstable relationships & childrearing ‡ Optimum level ± Reflected in well-being .