OECD Guidelines on Measuring Subjective Well-being

Published on March 20, 2013


Being able to measure people’s quality of life is fundamental when assessing the progress of societies. There is now widespread acknowledgement that measuring subjective well-being is an essential part of measuring quality of life alongside other social and economic dimensions. As a first step to improving the measures of quality of life, the OECD has produced Guidelines which provide advice on the collection and use of measures of subjective well-being.  These Guidelines have been produced as part of the OECD Better Life Initiative, a pioneering project launched in 2011, with the objective to measure society’s progress across eleven domains of well-being, ranging from jobs, health and housing, through to civic engagement and the environment.

These Guidelines represent the first attempt to provide international recommendations on collecting, publishing, and analysing subjective well-being data. They provide guidance on collecting information on people's evaluations and experiences of life, as well as on collecting “eudaimonic” measures of psychological well-being. The Guidelines also outline why measures of subjective well-being are relevant for monitoring and policy making, and why national statistical agencies have a critical role to play in enhancing the usefulness of existing measures. They identify the best approaches for measuring, in a reliable and consistent way, the various dimensions of subjective well-being, and provide guidance for reporting on such measures. The Guidelines also include a number of prototype survey modules on subjective well-being that national and international agencies can use in their surveys.


Overview and recommendations
Concept and validity
Methodological considerations in the measurement of subjective well-being
Measuring subjective well-being
Output and analysis of subjective well‑being measures
Illustrative examples of subjective well‑being measures
Question modules
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Further reading

OECD releases first comprehensive guidelines on measuring subjective well-being  (press release)

OECD Guidelines on measuring subjective well-being  (PPT presentation)

How to measure happiness and why it matters (blog article)

OECD work on measuring well-being and progress


Related work

Well-Being and Policy (Report commissioned by the Legatum Institute)

Subjective Well-Being: Measuring Happiness, Suffering, and Other Dimensions of Experience (Report by the National Research Council)