, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 73-90

The structure of subjective well-being in nine western societies

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Abstract

The structure of subjective well-being is analyzed by multidimensional mapping of evaluations of life concerns. For example, one finds that evaluations of Income are close to (i.e., relatively strongly related to) evaluations of Standard of living, but remote from (weakly related to) evaluations of Health. These structures show how evaluations of life components fit together and hence illuminate the psychological meaning of life quality. They can be useful for determining the breadth of coverage and degree of redundancy of social indicators of perceived well-being. Analyzed here are data from representative sample surveys in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, and the United States (each N≈1000). Eleven life concerns are considered, including Income, Housing, Job, Health, Leisure, Neighborhood, Transportation, and Relations with other people. It is found that structures in all of these countries have a basic similarity and that the European countries tend to be more similar to one another than they are to USA. These results suggest that comparative research on subjective well-being is feasible within this group of nations.

Prepared initially for presentation at the 1977 Annual Meeting of the American Statistical Association, Chicago, August 1977. We are grateful to Kai Hildebrant for his skillful processing of data for this paper and for many useful suggestions regarding the analysis. Ed Schneider and James Lingoes also provided helpful advice.