This report is the output of a stocktaking of subjective well-being measurement in Europe. We have reviewed the different approaches to measuring subjective well-being, carried out a stock-taking of the different surveys that include subjective well-being measures around Europe and explored their characteristics, and interviewed selected individuals within National Statistics Institutes to understand their positions regarding subjective well-being and, if they are collecting such data, find out how it is being used. This report concludes with a series of recommendations to those advocating for subjective well-being data, or researching it, on how to better improve the quality and usefulness of the data.
This report is the first output of the e-Frame (European Framework for Measuring Progress) project.
e-Frame is a major international project which aims to provide a European framework for the debate over the measure of well-being and progress. The project involves a broad range of activities including conferences and workshops, as well as research and the development of guidelines. It is led by two major European National Statistical Institutes (NSIs), ISTAT (in Italy) and the CBS (in the Netherlands), and includes amongst the partners two other NSIs (the French INSEE and the UK ONS), the OECD, and several universities and civil society organisations. It is funded by the EU FP7 Work Programme.
Six years ago, subjective well-being (hereafter SWB) was an area that was mostly beyond the remit of NSIs. When data were collected, it tended not to have a high profile. However, recent years have seen SWB rise up both the priority lists for NSIs and the agenda for policy-makers and politicians. In 2013, all EU countries will be collecting data on SWB in major social surveys as part of the EU-SILC (Survey of Individual Living Conditions).
For Task 2 of Work Package 2, nef (the new economics foundation) was charged with carrying out a stock-taking of SWB measurement in Europe. This report presents the results of that stock-taking, including the following sub-tasks:
- A review of the different approaches to measuring SWB
- Identification of surveys including SWB measures within Europe, and an analysis of their different properties
- Selected interviews with NSIs to understand their position with regards SWB measurement and the use of their data
Section 1 presents some background on how SWB has got to where it is today, and why it is seen by many to be important to measure.
Section 2 outlines the various approaches and theoretical frameworks for measuring SWB that are active within Europe and around the world.
Section 3 presents the findings of our review of SWB data collection within Europe to date. Section 4 covers the small set of interviews and discussions that we had with staff involved in official statistics bodies working on SWB.
Section 5 presents recommendations for further work emerging from these findings, aimed at those developing and promoting SWB measurement.
It is important to highlight that this report is intended to be read in parallel with the OECD Guidelines on the Measurement of Subjective Well-being, which will cover a range of issues including why NSIs should measure SWB, how they should measure SWB, and how measures of SWB can be used in policy.
Download the Report
Saamah Abdallah, Sorcha Mahony, New Economics Foundation
See also 
Guidelines on measuring subjective well-being, OECD, 2013