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Issue 28 - 2012

ISSN 1178-2587

Reading list: Measuring wellbeing

New Zealand material
International research and reviews
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Note: This list provides a selection of recent research, policy and literature on measuring wellbeing. If you know of other items of significance that could be included, please email through the details to

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New Zealand

Psychometric properties of the flourishing scale in a New Zealand sample
Hone, L., Jarden, A., & Schofield, G. Z. (2013, November). Social Indicators Research, 3
The study provides further evidence that the Flourishing Scale is a valid and reliable brief summary measure of psychological functioning, suited for use with a wide range of age groups and applications.

What does it mean to be well in schools? An exploration of multiple perspectives on student wellbeing in a New Zealand secondary school context
Soutter, A. K. (2013). PhD thesis. University of Canterbury, Christchurch, NZ.
The aims of this thesis were to examine the relationships between wellbeing and senior secondary educational experiences, to develop a conceptual framework based on a literature review, to refine the framework through document analysis and experimental study, and to propose a model of student wellbeing that could support both researchers in the development of indicators to monitor student wellbeing and educators seeking to plan for and assess wellbeing-enhancing educational experiences. 

Families and whānau status report: Towards measuring the wellbeing of families and whānau
Families Commission. (2013, August). Wellington: Author.
The Families Commission has just released its first annual Families and Whānau Status Report that builds a platform to measure and monitor wellbeing. Clare Ward says, "Strong resilient families are the cornerstones of healthy communities. This information will help central and local government and community organisations to build better lives for New Zealanders. 

An indigenous model of career satisfaction: Exploring the role of workplace cultural wellbeing
Harr, J. M. & Brougham, D. M. (2013). Social Indicators Research, 110 (3), 873-890.
Using a sample of 172 Maori employees, we tested a career satisfaction model with a cultural wellbeing factor over and above established factors of human capital, sociodemographic, individual differences and organizational sponsorship. Maori respondents reported the greatest career satisfaction when workplace cultural wellbeing was high, irrespective of collectivism orientation. 

Kei te pēwhea tō whānau? Exploring whānau using the Māori Social Survey
Tibble, A., & Ussher, S. (2012, October). Wellington: Statistics New Zealand
This report describes how the Maori Social Survey to be undertaken in June & July 2013 (Te Kupenga) will study whanau and whanau well-being. Te Kupenga examines key aspects of Māori culture and society using quantitative methods. The survey is informed by a Māori-centred approach, which emphasises the need to see the world through Māori eyes. A nationally representative sample of 5,000 people will be surveyed through computer-assisted personal interviews.

Does money buy me love? Testing alternative measures of national wellbeing
Grimes, A., Oxley, L., & Tarrant, N. (2012, August). Motu Working Paper 12-09. Wellington: Motu Economic and Public Policy Research.
We compile and compare a range of aggregate wellbeing measures including: material measures (e.g. GDP per capita), surveyed measures (e.g. life satisfaction) and composite measures (e.g. Human Development Index) covering a range of countries. We test the predictive power of wellbeing measures for an objective indicator of how people value countries' relative attractiveness. The objective indicator is net migration over a fifty year timespan, indicating people's revealed preference (re)location choices.

Nga tohu o te ora: Traditional maori healing and wellness outcomes
Ahuriri-Driscoll, A., Hudson, M., Bishara, I., Milne, M., & Stewart, M. (2012, June). Porirua, New Zealand: Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd.
The project aim was to develop an outcomes framework based on traditional Māori notions of wellness, as understood by the healers themselves. This was an ambitious task; while progress has indeed been made towards this goal, further work is required to translate what has been generated from the research into tangible outcomes for the healing community.

The gap in the subjective wellbeing of Māori and New Zealand Europeans widened between 2005 and 2009
Sibley, C.G., Harré, N., Hoverd, W.J., & Houkamau, C.A. (2011). Social Indicators Research, 104(1), 103-115.
We compared the self-reported subjective wellbeing of Māori and New Zealand (NZ) Europeans in two NZ national postal samples. The first sample was collected in 2005 before the global financial crisis of 2007/2010. The second was collected in 2009 while the crisis was ongoing. NZ Europeans’ scores on the Personal Wellbeing Index (PWI) were near-identical across the 2005 and 2009 samples. However, Māori, who were already lower than NZ Europeans on the PWI in 2005, showed a further decrease in 2009.

Working towards higher living standards for New Zealanders
Gleisner, B., Llewellyn-Fowler, M. & McAlister, F. (2011, May). Wellington: The Treasury.
PDF and HTML versions
This paper describes the New Zealand Treasury's Living Standards Framework, in which Treasury sets out how it seeks to conceptualise and measure living standards in New Zealand. Measures of subjective wellbeing are included as a cross-check to the four main types of capital the Framework prioritises: financial and physical capital, human capital, social capital and natural capital.

The Pacific Identity and Wellbeing Scale (PIWBS): A culturally-appropriate self-report measure for Pacific Peoples in New Zealand
Manuela, S, & Sibley, C. G. (Department of Psychology, University of Auckland). (2012, April). Social Indicators Research. DOI: 10.1007/s11205-012-0041-9
We describe and validate the PIWBS. It provides a culturally appropriate valid and reliable assessment tool assessing a five-factor model of Pacific identity and wellbeing. The PIWBS can be used for within-cultural research for Pacific peoples from a Pacific perspective. A copy of the PIWBS and scoring instructions for its use are included. 

Quality of Life Reports (2003-2010).
Wellington: Neilson
2010 survey results
2007 report
The Quality of Life project aims to provide a comprehensive assessment of quality of life in 12 New Zealand cities. The purpose of the project is to provide information that contributes to the understanding of social, economic and environmental conditions which can be used to describe and quantify the quality of life of those living in New Zealand's major urban areas. A 12 cities joint Quality of Life Report is released once every five years following the release of new census data (latest: 2007), and a report on Quality of Life survey results is released every two years (latest: 2010).

The social report 2010 - Te purongo oranga tangata
Ministry of Social Development. (2010, Oct). Wellington: Ministry of Social Development.
PDF and HTML versions
The social report provides a picture of progress on social outcomes for New Zealanders. It uses a set of statistical indicators to monitor trends across key dimensions of people's lives at national, regional and territorial authority levels. The indicators used are a mixture of objective measures (e.g. life expectancy, education levels) and subjective measures that reflect how people feel about a situation (e.g. contact with family and friends, overall life satisfaction). Life satisfaction appeared as a measure in the Social Report for the first time in 2010, using data from the 2008 New Zealand General Social Survey (NZGSS). Please also see the New Zealand General Social Survey: 2010 document by Statistics New Zealand.

New Zealand living standards
Ministry of Social Development. (2008). Wellington: Author.
The living standards research is an ongoing research programme that aims to develop a comprehensive description of the living standards of New Zealanders using non-income measures of material wellbeing and hardship. Policy makers, researchers, community groups, government agencies and citizens more generally have a strong interest in reliable and up to date information about the relative material wellbeing of different groups within the New Zealand community.

Children and young people: Indicators of wellbeing
Ministry of Social Development. (2008). Wellington: Author.
Two reports have been produced in this series, looking at indicators of the social wellbeing of children and young people; how this has changed over time, and how different groups of the population are faring.

Measuring changes in family and whanau wellbeing using census data, 1981-2006: A preliminary analysis
Cotterell, G., Randow, M. V., & Wheldon, M. (2008). Wellington: Statistics New Zealand.
This report has examined changes in family wellbeing for a range of family types over the period 1981-2006. Given the absence of an overall index of wellbeing for each family type, it is difficult to define with precision the overall changes in family wellbeing over this period. However, the evidence suggests that, overall, families experienced more negative impacts on their wellbeing than they did positive. There are, of course, variations in this experience - depending on which family type is examined, which particular indicator or indicators are the focus, and whether or not the family under examination has at least one Maori parent.

Positive ageing indicators
Ministry of Social Development. (2007). Wellington: Author
This report is the first step in the establishment of a regular programme of monitoring the wellbeing and quality of life of older New Zealanders. The report is organised around 10 outcomes domains that capture aspects of wellbeing and quality of life for older people. These domains reflect the broadly agreed understanding of positive ageing as set out in the Positive Ageing Strategy.

Measuring Maori wellbeing
Durie, M. (2006). New Zealand Treasury Guest Lecture Series. Wellington
PDF and presentation slides
In this paper Mason Durie discusses three levels of outcome measurement that focus separately on Maori as: individuals, whanau, and as a whole population.


Predictors of wellbeing
National Centre for Social Research. (August, 2013). London: Author.
This report was commissioned by the Department of Health to identify what factors predict high levels of wellbeing among: young children, young people, adults across the life course, men and women separately. For a long time both social research and social policy have focused on counting and avoiding negative outcomes, rather than measuring and developing positive assets. This study's focus on the predictors of positive wellbeing is designed to inform policy across the Department of Health, Public Health England, and beyond. 

Measuring national well-being: Life in the UK, 2012
Office for National Statistics. (2012, November). Cardiff, Wales: Author
The Measuring National Well-being programme was set up in 2010 with a focused aim: to ‘develop and publish an accepted and trusted set of National Statistics which help people understand and monitor well-being.' The first annual report of the programme has been published and it contains a mix of different types of information that seek to provide a richer picture on ‘how society is doing'.
See also the Interactive Graph which allows comparisons of wellbeing data between UK countries and regions.

Measuring well-being: A guide for practitioners
New Economics Foundation. (2012, July). London: Author.
The guide is designed primarily for voluntary organisations and community groups delivering projects and services, to help them kick-start the process of measuring wellbeing outcomes.

Psychological well-being and psychological distress: Is it necessary to measure both?
Winefield, H., Gill, T. K., Taylor, A. W., & Pilkington, R. M. (2012, 25 June). Psychology of WellBeing: Theory, Research and Practice, 2:3 doi:10.1186/2211-1522-2-3.
The measure of wellbeing shows psychometric promise for community surveys. Psychological wellbeing is not exactly the opposite end of the continuum to psychological distress, but more debate is needed about whether and when, research participants need to be asked questions about both.

Development of an individual well-being scores assessment
Evers, K.E., Prochaska, J., Castle, P.H., Johnson, J.L., Prochaska, J., Harrison, P., Pope, J.E. (2012, May). Psychology of Well-Being: Theory, Research and Practice, 2(2), Epub.
Provisonal PDF
This study describes the development and validation of an individual-level wellbeing assessment and scoring method (IWBS), adapted from the population-based Gallup-Healthways Wellbeing Index across six domains: physical health, emotional health, healthy behaviors, work environment, basic access and overall life-evaluation.

The promotion of local wellbeing: a primer for policymakers
Rablen, Matthew D. (2012, May). Local Economy, 27(2), 297-314.
The concept of subjective wellbeing is poorly understood within local government and much of the evidence base is extremely recent. This article reviews the literature on the definition, measurement, and determinants of wellbeing, and discusses some of its implications for local public policy.

World Happiness Report
Helliwell, J., Layard, R. & Sachs, J. (2012, Apr). New York: Earth Institute.
Commissioned by the UN Conference on Happiness, this report reflects a new worldwide demand for more attention to happiness as criteria for government policy. It reviews the state of happiness in the world today and shows how the new science of happiness explains personal and national variations in happiness. One of the findings is that mental health is the biggest single factor affecting happiness in any country, yet only a quarter of mentally ill people get treatment for their condition in advanced countries and fewer in poorer countries.

Well-being evidence for policy: A review
New Economics Foundation. (2012, 3 April). London: Author.
Reviewing the current evidence (up to the end of 2011) - providing an introduction to the state of current knowledge. The policy areas which have been identified include: the economy, social relationships and community, health, the local environment, education and care. There is also a section on personal characteristics, which, although often not amenable to direct policy changes, play an important part in the understanding of the factors that are important to an individual's wellbeing.

Capturing wellbeing at work
Shephard, V. & Caan, W. (2012), Journal of Public Mental Health, 11(1), 27-31.
This paper reports on a 12-item measure developed by the authors, which assesses and monitors the wellbeing of employees across an organisation: Wellness at Work (W@W). The survey revealed that individuals with low or deteriorating "wellness" gave distinctive responses to questions about their future work, and enabled widespread discussion within the organisation about actions to improve employee wellbeing.

...and the pursuit of happiness: wellbeing and the role of government
Booth, P. (Ed.). (2012). London: Institute of Economic Affairs.
Full report
This report from the IEA is an edited collection of articles by economists critiquing the recent wave of governmental and academic interest in measures of happiness and wellbeing. Broadly speaking, the report argues that attempts by government to increase population happiness will actually be detrimental to individual wellbeing.

Flourishing across Europe: application of a new conceptual framework for defining well-being
Huppert, F.A. & So, T.T.C. (2011, Dec). Social Indicators Research.
DOI 10.1007/s11205-011-9966-7
Governments around the world are recognising the importance of measuring subjective wellbeing as an indicator of progress. But how should wellbeing be measured? The authors of this paper examine internationally agreed criteria for depression and anxiety (DSM and ICD classifications), and define the opposite of each symptom, thus identifying ten features of positive wellbeing. Application of this definition to respondents from the 23 countries which participated offers fresh insight into cultural differences in wellbeing, and indicate which features may provide the most promising targets for policies to improve wellbeing.

How's life? Measuring well-being
(2011, Oct). OCED.
Every person aspires to a good life. But what does "a good or a better life" mean? This report looks at the most important aspects that shape people's lives and wellbeing: income, jobs, housing, health, work and life-balance, education, social connections, civic engagement and governance, environment, personal security and subjective wellbeing. It paints a comprehensive picture of wellbeing in OECD countries and other major economies, by looking at people's material living conditions and quality of life across the population. The report responds to the needs of citizens for better information on wellbeing and to the needs of policy makers to give a more accurate picture of societal progress.

Measuring what matters: National Statistician's reflections on the national debate on measuring national well-being
(2011, July). Cardiff, Wales: Office for National Statistics
In 2010 the UK Office for National Statistics launched a programme of work on measuring national wellbeing. The aim of the programme is to develop and publish an accepted and trusted set of National Statistics which help people to understand and monitor national wellbeing. Supplementary papers on topics such as measuring subjective wellbeing, and the wellbeing of children and young people are also available from the programme's publication page.

A toolkit for well-being
National Mental Wellbeing Impact Assessment Collaborative. (2011, May). U.K.: Author
This provides an evidence based framework for improving wellbeing through commissioning processes, project and service design and delivery, community engagement and impact assessment. It enables people and organisations to assess and improve a policy, programme, service or project to ensure it has a maximum equitable impact on people's mental wellbeing, and to identify ways to measure those impacts.

Taking the temperature of local communities: The wellbeing and resilience measure (WARM)
Young Foundation. (2011). London: Author.
The wellbeing and resilience measure is a new tool that has been developed to make the most of existing data about localities, combining familiar statistics on such things as jobs and health with new ways of thinking about how happy and resilient communities are. Focusing not just on community needs and vulnerabilities (such as crime or mental illness), but also on community assets (such as strong families and social supports).

Pursuing rising national well-being: A Sisyphean challenge?
Abdallah, S. (2011). London: New Economics Foundation.
This working paper considers a recent paper by Professor Angus Deaton of Princeton University which suggests that advocates of wellbeing measurement should be more cautious. We argue that Deaton is right to caution governments against expecting large rapid changes in reported national average wellbeing as a result of changes in economic conditions but that this does not detract from the value of measuring wellbeing and we discuss the reasons.

An intentional model of emotional well-being: the development and initial validation of a measure of subjective well-being
Faruk Simsek, O. (2011). Journal of Happiness Studies, 12(3), 421-442.
The major problem with the current emotional wellbeing scales is that they lack intentionality (being about something), which makes them incongruent with the definition of subjective wellbeing. A new emotional wellbeing scale with new affect adjectives has been developed by addressing intentionality. It focuses on individuals' affective evaluations of their life and has showed good psychometric quality.

A prototype index of factors affecting mental wellbeing in England
Glover, G., Lee, R. & Copeland, A. (2011). Journal of Public Mental Health, 10(2), 81-87.
To support developments in mental health policy, a prototype version of an index of factors affecting wellbeing was developed for the 149 local government areas. For each of five domains (‘‘a positive start in life'', ‘‘resilience and a safe and secure base'', ‘‘integrated physical and mental health'' ‘‘sustainable, connected communities'', and ‘‘meaning and purpose''), the authors attempted to find proxy measures of positive and risk factors among routinely collected government statistics.

Wealth and happiness across the world: material prosperity predicts life evaluation, whereas psychosocial prosperity predicts positive feeling
Diener E., Ng W., Harter J. & Arora R. (2010, Jul). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99(1), 52-61.
The Gallup World Poll was used to explore the reasons why happiness is associated with higher income, including the meeting of basic needs, fulfilment of psychological needs, increasing satisfaction with one's standard of living, and public goods. Across the globe, the association of log income with subjective wellbeing was linear but convex with raw income, indicating the declining marginal effects of income on subjective wellbeing.

Eurostat feasibility study for well-being indicators
Eurostat. (2010, Mar). European Union: Author
This study was undertaken as part of the European Union's work on complimenting GDP with environmental and social indicators. The overall aim was to identify and list the steps needed to be taken in order for public and civil society to have "the tools to take swift, well-informed and effective decisions that promote the wellbeing of individuals, of societies, of the planet itself". The document critiques a number of other wellbeing measures and the driver variables and suggests what they should be measuring, and aims to combine both subjective and objective measures of wellbeing. 

Culture and well-being: a new inquiry into the psychological wealth of nations
Oishi, S. & Schimmack, U. (2010). Perspectives on Psychological Science, 5(4), 463-471.
This article sets out the context for debates around how to measure life satisfaction, happiness and wellbeing. The authors discuss arguments for and criticisms of approaches using measures of GDP, subjective indicators of wellbeing, and the contributions being made by psychological science.

Should happiness-maximization be the goal of government?
Duncan, G. (2010). Journal of Happiness Studies, 11(2), 163-178
Recent social surveys of happiness (subjective wellbeing) have given a new stimulus to utilitarian political theory by providing a statistically reliable measure of the ‘happiness' of individuals that can then be correlated with other variables. One general finding is that greater happiness does not correlate strongly with increased wealth, beyond modest levels, and this has led to calls for governments to shift priorities away from economic growth and towards other social values. This paper notes how the conclusions of this research help to address some of the traditional objections to utilitarianism.

National accounts of well-being: bringing real wealth onto the balance sheet
Michaelson, J., Abdallah, S., Steuer, N., Thompson, S. & Marks, N. (2009). London: New Economics Foundation.
Full report
This report sets out the details of nef's case for governments to systematically measure and report on the wellbeing of their populations. Using the latest findings from the field of wellbeing research, it demonstrates how the case for national wellbeing measures is closely linked to the history of economic national accounting. It describes how a framework for National Accounts of Wellbeing was developed from European Social Survey data and presents the resulting findings, to show how National Accounts of Wellbeing can provide a new, more meaningful measure of national success and help governments take decisions to improve the lives of their citizens.

Measuring well-being across Europe: description of the ESS well-being module and preliminary findings
Huppert, F., Marks, N., Clark, A., Siegrist, J., Stutzer, A., Vitterso, J., & Wahrendorf, M. (2009). Social Indicators Research, 91(3), 301-315.
This article describes the development of a set of wellbeing indicators which were included in Round 3 of the European Social Survey. This Wellbeing Module seeks to evaluate the success of European countries in promoting the personal and social wellbeing of their citizens. In addition to providing a better understanding of domain-specific measures, such as those relating to family, work and income, the design of the Wellbeing Module recognises that advancement in the field requires us to look beyond measures which focus on how people feel (happiness, pleasure, satisfaction) to measures which are more concerned with how well they function.

Income, health and wellbeing around the world: evidence from the Gallup World Poll
Deaton, A. (2009). Journal of Economic Perspectives. 22, 53-72. Author manuscript accessed from PMC.
Author manuscript full text
During 2006, the Gallup Organization conducted a World Poll that used an identical questionnaire for national samples of adults from 132 countries. This article analyses the data on life satisfaction and on health satisfaction and looks at their relationships with national income, age, and life-expectancy. While the strong relationship between life-satisfaction and income gives some credence to the measures, the lack of correlations between life and health satisfaction and health measures shows that self-assessed life or health evaluations cannot be regarded as useful summary indicators of human welfare in international comparisons.


Sovereign Wellbeing Index
Sovereign has teamed up with the AUT University to produce New Zealand's first comprehensive survey measuring the quality of life of New Zealanders - the Sovereign Wellbeing Index. The index will measure people's perception of life, how happy they are, how good they're feeling, and how well they're functioning. 

Me and My School
New Zealand Council for Educational Research provides survey tools for schools that have been specifically designed for New Zealand situations. ‘Me and My School' is a student engagement survey for students in Years 7 to 10. The survey measures three aspects of student engagement. The first is behaviour, and the students' actual participation in school and learning; this includes positive conduct, persistence, and involvement in school life. The second aspect is students' emotional responses to teachers, peers, learning, and school. The third is cognitive: the psychological investment students have in their own learning. 

National Accounts of Well-being
Launched in 2009, this website is the platform for the New Economics Foundation's (nef) proposal for governments to measure people's subjective wellbeing. Nef argues that these measures should be collected on a regular, systematic basis and published as National Accounts of Wellbeing. This proposal has subsequently been adopted in the UK by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) (see references above). Nef's website provides an introduction to the topic and information on tools and indicators for measuring national wellbeing.

Happy Planet Index 2012
The New Economics Foundation (nef) has created this index as a new measure of human progress. It uses global data on life expectancy, experienced wellbeing and ecological footprint in its efficiency calculations - the extent to which each nation produces long and happy lives per unit of environmental input: "It measures what matters: the extent to which countries deliver long, happy, sustainable lives for the people that live in them."
New Zealand is ranked #28 out of 151 countries

OECD Better Life Index
There is more to life than the cold numbers of GDP and economic statistics; this index allows you to compare wellbeing across countries, based on 11 topics the OECD has identified as essential, in the areas of material living conditions and quality of life. The New Zealand statistics are from the New Zealand General Social Survey 2010.

Canadian Index of Wellbeing
This site publishes the work of the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) network on developing indicators to measure the wellbeing of Canadians. It uses eight indicators: democratic engagement, community vitality, education, environment, healthy populations, leisure and culture, living standards and time use, to create a composite index that can track wellbeing across time. 

The Afrobarometer is an independent research project that measures the social, political and economic atmosphere in sub-Saharan Africa. Afrobarometer surveys are conducted in 20 African countries, and are repeated on a regular cycle. Subjects surveyed include opinions on democracy, legitimacy and the rule of law, accountability, government performance, social capital and equality, individual efficacy and action, cosmopolitanism and economic perspectives. 


Mental Health Foundation Resource & Information Service
PO Box 10051, Dominion Road, Auckland, 1446
Units 109-110, Zone 23, 23 Edwin St, Mt Eden
Phone 09 623 4812, fax 09 623 4811 

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