Social Indicators Research

, Volume 117, Issue 2, pp 577–600

The Metrics of Societal Happiness


DOI: 10.1007/s11205-013-0356-1

Cite this article as:
Tay, L., Chan, D. & Diener, E. Soc Indic Res (2014) 117: 577. doi:10.1007/s11205-013-0356-1


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.


MeasurementSubjective well-beingHappinessSocietiesNational indexExperience sampling methodEcological momentary assessmentDay reconstruction methodLife evaluationsReliabilityValidity

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Singapore Management UniversitySingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.University of IllinoisChampaignUSA
  3. 3.The Gallup OrganizationOmahaUSA
  4. 4.Department of Psychological SciencesPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA