Saturday, 13 September 2014

Measuring well-being and happiness

The Stiglitz commission report (2009) recommends that:  “...the time is ripe for our measurement system to shift emphasis from measuring economic production to measuring people’s well-being.” Traditionally, GDP has been considered as measure of nation’s prosperity and seen as seen as the measure of progress.  The importance of material wealth as one of the key building blocks of happiness is evident from research, but it has been suggested that GDP growth does not correlate with happiness after a certain point of wealth has been reached. This phenomenon is known as the Easterlin Paradox.

Happiness will always remain subjective in nature as a person’s experience of happiness can only be measured by an individual’s own subjective judgments of their feelings. The ‘Measuring Subjective Well-being ‘guidance by ONS (2011) outlines three main categories of subjective wellbeing measures for policy purposes:
1. Evaluation, 2. Experience and  3. ‘Eudaemonic’ measures. These categories are based on the work of several other academics.  Evaluation measures are the ones where people are asked to provide overall assessments of their life satisfaction based on life domains such as job satisfaction and health. Experience measures directly assess a person’s mental state by asking about their feelings. Eudaemonic measures are based on the theory that humans have underlying psychological needs that need to be met in order to enable individuals to reach states of well-being and feelings of happiness. It appears that internal and external factors contribute towards happiness and therefore a combination of both objective and subjective measures should be used as the measurement method.

There are a number of issues and gaps in current knowledge of measuring -especially children and young peoples- well-being and these raise many methodological and ethical issues. However, there are ways that can be employed to assess and measure children and young peoples well-being effectively.

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