Social Indicators Research

, Volume 117, Issue 2, pp 577-600

First online:

The Metrics of Societal Happiness

  • Louis TayAffiliated withSingapore Management UniversityDepartment of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University Email author 
  • , David ChanAffiliated withSingapore Management University
  • , Ed DienerAffiliated withUniversity of IllinoisThe Gallup Organization

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Growing interest in the measurement of subjective well-being (SWB) has also been accompanied by scientific debate on the optimal method for measuring SWB. The momentary perspective, which is represented by the ecological momentary assessment (EMA) and day reconstruction method (DRM), emphasizes the momentary experiences and aims to measure SWB in an objective manner via the aggregation of happiness levels over time and activities. The global reporting perspective emphasizes the subjective evaluation of life experiences and aims to capture the overall evaluation using retrospection or global evaluations. We discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these different perspectives and methods by examining conceptual, methodological, and practical issues. We propose adopting a multi-method assessment approach to SWB that uses both perspectives and the corresponding methods in a theory-driven and complementary manner. For the purposes of measuring and tracking SWB of societies, we also call for more research on the reliability and validity of EMA and DRM.


Measurement Subjective well-being Happiness Societies National index Experience sampling method Ecological momentary assessment Day reconstruction method Life evaluations Reliability Validity