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Week+2+required+Diener++2000++National+index - Subjective...

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Subjective Well-Being The Science of Happiness and a Proposal for a National Index Ed Diener University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign One area of positive psychology analyzes subjective well- being (SWB), people's cognitive and affective evaluations of their lives. Progress has been made in understanding the components of SWB, the importance of adaptation and goals to feelings of well-being, the temperament underpin- nings of SWB, and the cultural influences on well-being. Representative selection of respondents, naturalistic expe- rience sampling measures, and other methodological re- finements are now used to study SWB and could be used to produce national indicators of happiness. F or millennia thinkers have pondered the question, what is the good life? They have focused on criteria such as loving others, pleasure, or self-insight as the defining characteristics of quality of life. Another idea of what constitutes a good life, however, is that it is desirable for people themselves to think that they are living good lives. This subjective definition of quality of life is demo- cratic in that it grants to each individual the right to decide whether his or her life is worthwhile. It is this approach to defining the good life that has come to be called "subjective well-being" (SWB) and in colloquial terms is sometimes labeled "happiness." SWB refers to people's evaluations of their lives--evaluations that are both affective and cogni- tive. People experience abundant SWB when they feel many pleasant and few unpleasant emotions, when they are engaged in interesting activities, when they experience many pleasures and few pains, and when they are satisfied with their lives. There are additional features of a valuable life and of mental health, but the field of SWB focuses on people's own evaluations of their lives. Throughout the world, people are granting increasing importance to SWB. Inglehart (1990) proposed that as basic material needs are met, individuals move to a post- materialistic phase in which they are concerned with self- fulfillment. Table I presents means from an international college sample of 7,204 respondents in 42 countries, sig- nifying how students in diverse countries view happiness (see Suh, Diener, Oishi, & Triandis, 1998, for more infor- mation about this sample). Mean values are presented for how frequently the respondents reported thinking about SWB and for how important they believed SWB is. As can be seen, even in societies that are not fully westernized, students reported that happiness and life satisfaction were very important, and they thought about them often. Al- though there was a trend for respondents in the most westernized nations to grant SWB greater importance, mean levels of concern about happiness were high in all of the countries surveyed. Among the total sample, only 6% of respondents rated money as more important than happi- ness. Furthermore, fully 69% rated happiness at the top of the importance scale, and only 1% claimed to have never thought about it. Of the respondents, 62% rated life satis-
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