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How do we measure well-being?

The capability approach to well being

This approach claims that both personal characteristics and social circumstances affect what people can achieve with a given amount of resources.

What really matters for well-being is what the person manages to do or to be. But well-being is more than that - it also includes freedom.

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How do we measure well-being?

How do we measure well-being?

https://theconversation.com/how-do-we-measure-well-being-70967

theconversation.com

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Key Ideas

Measuring happiness

According to psychologists, happiness and life satisfaction do not coincide. Life satisfaction requires individuals to take a step back to assess their lives while happiness mirrors positive and negative emotions that fluctuate.

Focusing on positive and negative emotions can lead to understanding well-being in a pleasure-based way. Happiness may be one of the elements in evaluating well-being but is not the only one.

Valuing well-being as satisfaction

Understanding well-being based on feelings of satisfaction, pleasure, or happiness has two problems.

  • The physical-condition neglect. Humans adapt to their circumstances, meaning the poor and sick can still be relatively happy.
  • Valuation neglect. Valuing life is a reflective activity. It should not be reduced to feeling happy or unhappy.

We should then acknowledge that feeling well is not the only thing people care about.

The capability approach to well being

This approach claims that both personal characteristics and social circumstances affect what people can achieve with a given amount of resources.

What really matters for well-being is what the person manages to do or to be. But well-being is more than that - it also includes freedom.

The preference-based approach to well being

Preference-based perspective is the idea that people are better off when they themselves consider what is important.

Some people think hard work is necessary to have a valuable life while others prefer family or going out with friends.

Choosing how to approach well-being

Two Belgian economists show that different approaches to well-being can have practical consequences. Using average income, average life satisfaction, and average "equivalent income," Danes are more satisfied than they are wealthy while France is the opposite.

For policy purposes, the different measures of well-being hint at the important issues involved in deciding which measure of well-being - if any - to select.

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Human nature is more than biology

The level of happiness is part of our genetic makeup - we have a set level and cannot rise above or fall below it.

Some scientists envision the day that we can manipulate our happiness ge...

Quantifying happiness

Happiness has always been difficult to quantify because it is subjective, depending on if you have a short- or a long-term outlook on life. Recently, researchers have started to distinguish between two types of happiness: 

  • Hedonic happiness that provides a mental high;
  • Eudaimonic happiness, a sense of well-being which involves a life well-lived.
The staples of happiness

People will always be happy when they see their children prosper when they feel loved, secure, and well-fed.

But, this formula for happiness is so obvious that most people dismiss it. They would rather look for a secret ingredient. The answer is that there is no secret.

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Subjective well-being

This is the primary way Positive Psychology researchers have defined and measured people's happiness and well-being.

It's defined as your evaluations of your own life and your mo...

Subjective Well-Being components

It consists of 3 parts: positive affect, negative affect, and life satisfaction.

Positive affect and negative affect are basically your emotions and moods, and life satisfaction refers to the evaluation of your life as a whole (how satisfied you are with your life, what you would change etc).

Measuring Subjective Well-Being

Tracking your own subjective well-being can be very powerful if you keep alongside a journal of your life's events. 

Keep it up for some time and you will see trends emerge. You'll also be able to adjust your activities in order to maximize positive affect and life satisfaction and minimize negative affect.

A shift in measuring well-being
A shift in measuring well-being

People in societies such as ancient Greece, imperial China, Medieval Europe, and colonial America did not measure people's well-being in terms of monetary earnings or economic output.

Measuring well-being: people vs money

The turn toward financial statistics means that instead of considering how economic developments could meet our needs, it instead is to determine whether individuals are meeting the demand of the economy.

Until the 1850s, social measurement in 19th-century America was a collection of social indicators known as "moral statistics," which focused on the physical, social, spiritual, and mental conditions of the people. Human beings were at the center, not dollars and cents.

Measuring progress and prosperity

What led to the pricing of progress in the mid-19th century was capitalism.

Capitalism is not just the existence of markets. It is also capitalised investment, where elements of society and life - including natural resources, technological discoveries, works of art, urban spaces, educational institutions, and people - are changed or "capitalised" into income-generating assets that are valued by their ability to make money and yield future returns.

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