Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 579–604 | Cite as

Human Welfare: Can We Trust What They Say?

  • Alina StundzieneEmail author
Research Paper


Scientific literature is rich in the discussions about social and economic welfare. A number of studies on the relationship between subjective well-being and various economic and social indicators have been carried out over the last decade. Reliability and validity of survey-generated data are very important factors in this type of research as they determine credibility of the conclusions. The purpose of this research is to verify whether the data of surveys on population’s life satisfaction is valid. The object of this research is the index of Overall life satisfaction in the European Union announced by the Eurostat. As the index of Overall life satisfaction is available only for 2013, verification of data validity was complemented with the analysis of the index of population’s Satisfaction with financial situation, which strongly correlates with the index of Overall life satisfaction. This approach provided more opportunities to collate and compare the data of different surveys. Collation of the data generated by several interrelated surveys on population’s life satisfaction has disclosed some significant differences in final results. The results of the research lead to the conclusion that the sample data does not represent the real situation of population’s life satisfaction, and this trend is particularly evident in less developed European countries. As a consequence, the index of Overall life satisfaction cannot be considered a good measure for the research in human welfare, and the conclusions concerning the relationship between the indicator of life satisfaction and other relevant indicators cannot be treated as credible.


Welfare Life satisfaction Validity Survey Financial situation Reliability 


  1. Abdallah, S., Thompson, S., & Marks, N. (2008). Estimating worldwide life satisfaction. Ecological Economics, 65(1), 35–47. Scholar
  2. Angner, E. (2009). The politics of happiness: Subjective vs. economic measures as measures of social well-being. In L. Bortolotti (Ed.), Philosophy and Happiness (pp. 149–166). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  3. Angner, E. (2010). Are subjective measures of well-being ‘direct’? Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 89(1), 115–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Angner, E., Midge, N. R., Kenneth, G. S., & Jeroan, J. A. (2009). Health and happiness among older adults: A community-based study. Journal of Health Psychology, 14(4), 503–512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Binder, M. (2014). Subjective well-being capabilities: Bridging the gap between the capability approach and subjective well-being research. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15(5), 1197–1217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Binder, M., & Coad, A. (2010). An examination of the dynamics of well-being and life events using vector autoregressions. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 76(2), 352–371. Scholar
  7. Binder, M., & Ward, F. (2013). The structure of subjective well-being: A vector autoregressive approach. Metroeconomica, 64(2), 361–400. Scholar
  8. Bleys, B. (2012). Beyond GDP: Classifying alternative measures for progress. Social Indicators Research, 109(3), 355–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bok, D. (2011). The politics of happiness: What government can learn from the new research on well-being (p. 272). Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Carmines, E. G., & Zeller, R. A. (1979). Reliability and validity assessment. Series: Quantitative applications in the social sciences. SAGE University PapersGoogle Scholar
  11. Deaton, A. (2008). Income, health, and well-being around the world: Evidence from the gallup world poll. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 22(2), 53–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dolan, P., Peasgood, T., & White, M. (2008). Do we really know what makes us happy? A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Psychology, 29, 94–122. Scholar
  13. Easterlin, R. A. (2013). Happiness and economic growth: The evidence. IZA discussion paper no. 7187.Google Scholar
  14. Fleurbaey, M. (2009). Beyond GDP: The quest for a measure of social welfare. Journal of Economic Literature, 47(4), 1029–1075.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gamble, A., & Garling, T. (2012). The relationships between life satisfaction, happiness, and current mood. Journal of Happiness Studies. Scholar
  16. Joshanloo, M., Rizwan, M., Khilji, I. A., Ferreira, M. C., Poon, W. C., Sundaram, S., et al. (2016). Conceptions of happiness and life satisfaction: An exploratory study in 14 national groups. Personality and Individual Differences, 102, 145–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kristensen, N., & Westergaard-Nielsen, N. (2006). Reliability of job satisfaction measures. Journal of Happiness Studies, 8(2), 273–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Krueger, A. B., & Schkade, D. (2008). The reliability of subjective well-being measures. Journal of Public Economics, 92, 833–1845.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Layard, R. (2010). Measuring subjective well-being. Science, 327(5965), 534–535. Scholar
  20. Michalos, A. C. (2011). What did Stiglitz, Sen and Fitoussi get right and what did they get wrong? Social Indicators Research, 102, 117–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Miklos, A., & van den Bergh, J. (2014). Evaluating alternatives to GDP as measures of social welfare/progress. Working paper no. 56, European Commission.Google Scholar
  22. Ng, Y. K. (2008). Environmentally responsible happy nation index: Towards an internationally acceptable national success indicator. Social Indicators Research, 85(3), 425–446.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Sarracino, F. (2013). Determinants of subjective well-being in high and low income countries: Do happiness equations differ across countries? The Journal of Socio-Economics, 42, 51–66. Scholar
  24. Stevenson, B., & Wolfers, J. (2008). Economic growth and subjective well-being: Reassessing the Easterlin paradox. NBER working paper no. 14282.Google Scholar
  25. Stiglitz, J. E., Sen, A., & Fitoussi, J. P. (2010). Mismeasuring our lives why GDP doesn’t add up (p. 176). New York: The New Press. ISBN 978-1-59558-519-6.Google Scholar
  26. Van den Bergh, J. C. J. M. (2009). The GDP paradox. Journal of Economic Psychology, 30(2), 117–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics, School of Economics and BusinessKaunas University of TechnologyKaunasLithuania

Personalised recommendations