The Art of Happiness – Measuring

Measuring Happiness – On the Subjective Well-being Scale

It is very important to measure one’s happiness. Without proper measurement, it is almost impossible to determine if one is getting happier in life or not. Everyone has a different way to measure happiness. However, in this tutorial, we will delve into the Subjective Well-being Scale devised by Ed Diener, an American psychologist, professor and an author.

Before looking into the subjective well-being scale, it is important to understand what subjective well-being means. Subjective well-being refers to how people experience the quality of their lives. It includes cognitive judgments and emotional reactions to situations. A number of psychologists have defined happiness as the combination of life satisfaction and the relative frequency of positive and negative effects. The cognitive aspects involve evaluations of one’s life, satisfaction etc.

Subjective Well-being Questions

Subjective well-being questions are not entirely subjective as the questions are selfreported. However, the questions ask the respondents to rate their feelings, rather than recall factual information and this is what makes the questions somewhat subjective. Objective indicators instead use parameters like educational level, health standards and employment condition to determine happiness. However, objective questions do not take into account the human perception. But human perception is regarded as the central figure in the well-being of an individual. The reason is that the only person who knows whether an individual is feeling low or high is the individual himself.

There are three approaches to determine subjective well-being of a person −

●      Evaluative

●      Experience

●      Eudemonic

Subjective Well-Being


In the evaluative approach, a person is required to make a cognitive reflection of his life. The respondents are asked to appraise their life on the parameters of health, job, educational qualifications, relationships etc. In addition to this, Cantril Ladder is also used. The respondents are asked to rate their life on a scale of 0 to 10.


The approach of experience aims to assess the emotional quality of a person’s experience. The factors like frequency, intensity and the kind of effect at any moment is used in this approach. The methods like Day Reconstruction Method (DRM) and Experience Sampling Method (ESM) are also used to record the mood and well-being of a person throughout the day across various activities.


The eudemonic approach has its foundation in the belief that each individual has underlying psychological needs to add meaning to one’s life. The factors included in this approach include autonomy, relationships, engagement, control, competence, purpose and achievement among many others.

The Satisfaction with Life Scale (SLWS) is the scale we will use at the beginning of this tutorial. Here is a small exercise. Ask yourself the following questions and rate on the scale of 1-7.

●      In most ways, my life is close to my ideal.

●      The conditions of my life are excellent.

●      I am satisfied with my life.

●      So far, I have gotten the important things I want in life.

●      If I could turn back on time, I would change almost nothing.

The scores that you provide would mean the following −

●      7 – Strongly agree

●      6 – Agree

●      5 – Slightly agree

●      4 – Neither agree nor disagree

●      3 – Slightly disagree

●      2 – Disagree

●      1 – Strongly disagree

Add all the scores and tally the sum with the explanations given for each score below.

●      31 – 35: Extremely satisfied

●      26 – 30: Satisfied

●      21 – 25: Slightly satisfied

●      20: Neutral

●      15 – 19: Slightly dissatisfied

●      10 – 14: Dissatisfied

●      5 – 9 Extremely dissatisfied

This is how subjective well-being is measured. It helps you to determine how happy you are in life and helps the psychologists to measure others’ happiness levels. Although not a foolproof method, yet this scale is widely used these days.

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