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First are the measures of external objective conditions, such as personal income growth, neighborhood characteristics, housing status, longevity, health, and disability.These measures were originally designed to supplement the conventional measures of societal progress reflected by developments in the economic sphere—growth rate of GNP, level of investment and saving, distribution of income, level of consumption, and the like. To the extent that these supplemental objective conditions have an impact on well-being that is not reflected in the standard economic variables, they provide a richer and broader picture of societal well-being.
9The second category of well-being measures on which research has focused—subjective self-reports of satisfaction/dissatisfaction—experienced a rapid development in the 1970s and 1980s. This research encompasses much of what is usually characterized as the subjective well-being literature. Studies in this area include not only the global satisfaction measures associated with various aspects of people's lives—such as their income; their neighborhood; and their relationships withtheir children, their spouse, and other family members—but also research focused on human development and mental health. These latter measures, discussed below, focus on assessment of how people feel about themselves as indicated by scales of self-assessment, personal growth, and relationships with others.Survey Approaches to Well-BeingSurveys of well-being use one or more of three definitions of wellbeing: (1) satisfaction with life, (2) health and ability/disability, and (3) composite indexes of positive functioning. This section provides examples of each of these approaches, along with an indication of their relative strengths and weaknesses.Well-Being as Satisfaction with Life“Now I want to ask you about your life as a whole. How satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?” This question, from the 1976 national survey of the quality of American life (Campbell et al., 1976), is typical of those asked in many subsequent surveys. The scaling of responses, however, varies.Campbell and colleagues used a seven-point scale, ranging from completely satisfied to completely dissatisfied. Andrews and Withey (1976)experimented with a number of different ways of scaling the global satisfaction question. They assumed that a person's assessment of life quality involves both a cognitive evaluation and some degree of positive or negative feeling. They attempted to capture both elements by presenting survey respondents with a seven-point scale anchored at one end by the word “delighted” and at the other by the word “terrible.” Their D-T scale, as it was called, has not been widely used in spite of the considerable methodological evidence in its favor. It was used, however, by Headey and Wearing (1991)in their longitudinal study of well-being in Victoria, the most densely populatedstate in Australia. Their index of life satisfaction was based on six items, all scaled onnine points ranging from delighted to terrible. The question about “life as a whole”