Assessing the validity of single-item life satisfaction measures: results from three large samples
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The present paper assessed the validity of single-item life satisfaction measures by comparing single-item measures to the Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS)—a more psychometrically established measure.
Two large samples from Washington (N = 13,064) and Oregon (N = 2,277) recruited by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and a representative German sample (N = 1,312) recruited by the Germany Socio-Economic Panel were included in the present analyses. Single-item life satisfaction measures and the SWLS were correlated with theoretically relevant variables, such as demographics, subjective health, domain satisfaction, and affect. The correlations between the two life satisfaction measures and these variables were examined to assess the construct validity of single-item life satisfaction measures.
Consistent across three samples, single-item life satisfaction measures demonstrated substantial degree of criterion validity with the SWLS (zero-order r = 0.62–0.64; disattenuated r = 0.78–0.80). Patterns of statistical significance for correlations with theoretically relevant variables were the same across single-item measures and the SWLS. Single-item measures did not produce systematically different correlations compared to the SWLS (average difference = 0.001–0.005). The average absolute difference in the magnitudes of the correlations produced by single-item measures and the SWLS was very small (average absolute difference = 0.015–0.042).
Single-item life satisfaction measures performed very similarly compared to the multiple-item SWLS. Social scientists would get virtually identical answer to substantive questions regardless of which measure they use.
KeywordsLife satisfaction Single-item measure Satisfaction with Life Scale Validity Measurement
This research was supported by a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation awarded to the first author and by funding from the National Institute on Aging (AG040715) awarded to the second author.
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