Working Paper: 05

Psychological and Subjective Well-being: A Proposal for Internationally Comparable Indicators

This paper sets out a proposal to measure psychological and subjective states of wellbeing in individual and household surveys. In particular, it proposes a short list of seven indicators, and a module containing the relevant questions needed to construct them. The indicators address both eudaemonic and hedonic criteria, and cover four aspects of wellbeing: 1) meaning in life; 2) the three ‘basic psychological needs’ of autonomy, competence and relatedness, following self-determination theory; 3) domain-specific and overall life satisfaction; and 4) happiness. The article recommends that further research should explore the connections between these indicators, as well as their relationship with objective measures of disadvantage. While re-affirming that perceptual staters should not be treated as aims of government policy, it is argued that they may provide a richer understanding of peoples’ values and behaviour – and therefore that further research on the subject could deepen our understanding of capability poverty.

Abridged Spanish version.

Citation: Samman, E. (2007). ‘Psychological and subjective well-being: A proposal for internationally comparable indicators’, OPHI Working Paper 5, University of Oxford.