Social Indicators Research

, Volume 72, Issue 3, pp 403–430 | Cite as

An Investigation into the Cross-Cultural Equivalence of the Personal Wellbeing Index

  • Anna L. D. Lau
  • Robert A. Cummins
  • Wenda Mcpherson


The Personal Wellbeing Index (PWI) is being developed for the cross-cultural measurement of subjective wellbeing (SWB). This paper reports the findings of its utility with the Hong Kong Chinese and Australian populations. An item on affect, ‘satisfaction with own happiness’ was also investigated to determine whether it should be added to the index. Three-hundred and sixty participants (180 per country), with equal representation from groups aged 18–35, 35–64 and 65 years and above, were recruited from each country. The PWI demonstrated good psychometric performance in terms of its reliability, validity and sensitivity, which are comparable in both countries. The item ‘satisfaction with own happiness’ was found to contribute significantly to the scale’s psychometric performance in Australia but not in Hong Kong. Cultural differences in the perception of the concepts ‘satisfaction’ and ‘happiness’ were suggested as an explanation for this finding. The PWI data are also consistent with homeostasis theory, which proposes that each person’s SWB level is maintained within a limited positive range. For the Australian population, their mean SWB level fell within the established Western range of 70–80, on a scale from 0 to 100. The Hong Kong population, however, fell below this range. Cultural response bias was identified as a plausible explanation for the differences between the Hong Kong and Australian samples.


cross-cultural measurement personal wellbeing index quality of life satisfaction subjective wellbeing 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Andrews, F.M., Withey, S.B. 1976Social Indicators of Well-being: American’s Perceptions of Life QualityPlenum PressNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics20022002 Census of Population and HousingCommonwealth Government of AustraliaAustraliaGoogle Scholar
  3. Census and Statistics Department2002Hong Kong 2001 Population Census: Summary Results’Hong Kong Government PrinterHong KongGoogle Scholar
  4. Cummins, R.A. 1995‘On the trail of the gold standard for life satisfaction’Social Indicators Research35179200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cummins, R.A. 1997Comprehensive Quality of Life Scale – Adult, Manual5Deakin UniversitySchool of Psychology151(ISBN 0 7300 2804 6)Google Scholar
  6. Cummins, R.A. 1998‘The second approximation to an international standard of life satisfaction’Social Indicators Research43307334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cummins, R.A. 2000‘Objective and subjective quality of life: An interactive model’Social Indicators Research525572CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cummins, R.A. 2000‘Personal income and subjective well-being: A review’Journal of Happiness Studies1133158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cummins R.A. 2002, ‘Caveats to the Comprehensive Quality of Life Scale’. from Scholar
  10. Cummins R.A.: in press, Cumulative Psychometric Record for the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index (Deakin University, Melbourne).Google Scholar
  11. Cummins, R.A., Nistico, H. 2002‘Maintaining life satisfaction: the role of positive cognitive bias’Journal of Happiness Studies33769CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cummins, R.A., Eckersley, R., Pallant, J., Vugt, J., Shelly, J., Pusey, M., Misajon, R. 200laAustralian Unity Wellbeing Index, Survey Report 1.0Australian Centre on Quality of Life, School of PsychologyDeakin University, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  13. Cummins, R.A., Eckersley, R., Pallant, J., Misajon, R., Davern, M. 2001bAustralian Unity Wellbeing Index, Survey Report 2.1: Special Report on Income and Geographic LocationAustralian Centre on Quality of Life, School of PsychologyDeakin University MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  14. Cummins, R.A., Gullone, E., Lau, D.A.L. 2002

    ‘A model of subjective wellbeing homeostasis: The role of personality’

    Michalos, A. eds. Social Indicators Research Series 16Kluwer Academic PublishersDordrecht746
    Google Scholar
  15. Cummins, R.A., Eckersley, R., Pallant, J., Vugt, J., Misajon, R. 2003a‘Developing a national index of subjective wellbeing: The Australian Unity Wellbeing Index’Social Indicators Research64159190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cummins, R.A., Eckersley, R., Lo, S.K., Okerstrom, E., Hunter, B., Davern, M.,  et al. 2003b‘Australian Unity Wellbeing Index: Report 5.0 – The Wellbeing of Australians’Australian Centre on Quality of Life, School of PsychologyDeakin University MelbourneAvailable from: Scholar
  17. Dijkers, M. 1999‘Measuring quality of life: methodological issues’American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation78286300CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Fayers, P.M., Groenvold, M., Hand, D.J., Bjordal, K. 1998‘Clinical impact versus factor analysis for quality of life questionnaire construction’Journal of Clinical Epidemiology51285286CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Hagerty, M.R., Cummins, R.A., Ferriss, A.L., Land, K., Michalos, A.C., Peterson, M., Sharpe, A., Sirgy, J., Vogel, J. 2001‘Quality of life indexes for national policy: review and agenda for research’Social Indicators Research55191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kwan, A.Y.H. 2001‘Quality of Life for Elderly People in Hong Kong’. Keynote Paper presented at the Third Australian Conference on Quality of LifeAustralian Centre on Quality of LifeMelbourne, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  21. Lau, A.L.D. 2001‘The conceptualization of quality of life for chinese elderly stroke survivors’. Paper presented at the Ninth Annual Congress of GerontologyHong Kong Association of GerontologyHong KongGoogle Scholar
  22. Lau, A.L.D., Cummins, R.A. 2003‘The subjective sellbeing of asian chinese and western populations: a cross-cultural perspective’. Paper presented at the Fifth Conference of the International Society for Quality-of-Life StudiesInternational Society for Quality-of-Life StudiesFrankfurt, GermanyGoogle Scholar
  23. Lau, A.L.D., McKenna, K. 2002‘Perception of quality of life by Chinese elderly persons with stroke’Disability and Rehabilitation24203218CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Lam, C.L.K., Gandek, B., Ren, S.X., Chan, M.S. 1998‘Tests of scaling assumptions and construct validity of the Chinese (HK) version of the SF-36 health survey’Journal of Clinical Epidemiology5111391147CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Lawton, M.P. 1997‘Measures of quality of life and subjective well-being’Generations: Journal of the American Society on Aging214547Google Scholar
  26. Lee, J.W., Jones, P.S., Mineyama, Y., Zhang, X.E. 2002‘Cultural differences in responses to a Likert scale’Research in Nursing and Health25295306CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Leelakulthanit, O., Day, R.D. 1993‘Cross cultural comparisons of quality of life of Thais and Americans’Social Indicators Research304970CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lu, L. 2001‘Understanding happiness: a look into the Chinese folk psychology’Journal of Happiness Studies2407432CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. McDowell, L., Newell, C. 1996Measuring Health: Guide to Rating Scales and QuestionnairesOxford University PressNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  30. Okun, M.A., Stock, W.A. 1987‘Correlates and components of subjective well-being among the elderly’The Journal of Applied Gerontology695112Google Scholar
  31. Pallant, J. 2001

    ‘Checking the reliability of a scale’

    Pallant, J. eds. SPSS Survival GuideAlien & UnwinCrows Nest, NSW8587
    Google Scholar
  32. Russell, J.A., Yik, M.S.M. 1996

    ‘Emotion among the Chinese’

    Bond, M.H. eds. The Handbook of Chinese PsychologyOxford University PressHong Kong166188
    Google Scholar
  33. Sartorius, N., Kuyken, W. 1994

    ‘Translation of health status instruments’

    Orley, J.Kuyken, W. eds. Quality of Life Assessment: International Perspectives.Springer-VerlagHeidelberg, Germany318
    Google Scholar
  34. Stening, B.W., Everett, I.E. 1984‘Response styles in a cross-cultural managerial study’Journal of Social Psychology122151156Google Scholar
  35. Tabachnik, B.G., Fidell, L.S. 1996Using multivariate statisticsHarperCollinsNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  36. The Harvard Team 1999, ‘Improving Hong Kong’s health care system: Why and for whom?’. from : consult/lics.htm.Google Scholar
  37. The Hong Kong Project Team on the Development of the Hong Kong Chinese version WHOQOL1997Hong Kong Chinese version World Health Organisation Quality of Life Measure-Abbreviated version: WHOQOL-BREF(HK)Hong Kong Hospital AuthorityHong KongGoogle Scholar
  38. Wong, P.S. 1993

    ‘Satisfaction with life’

    Lau, S.K.Lee, M.K.Wan, P.S.Wong, S.L. eds. Indicators of Social Development.The Chinese University of Hong KongHong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, Hong Kong399438
    Google Scholar
  39. Yau, M.K.S. 2003

    ‘The Yin and Yang analogy’

    Phoon, W.O.Macindoe, I. eds. Untangling the Threads: Perspectives on Mental Health in Chinese CommunitiesCumberland Centre, Transcultural Mental Health CentreParamatta127143
    Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna L. D. Lau
    • 1
  • Robert A. Cummins
    • 2
  • Wenda Mcpherson
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Rehabilitation SciencesThe Hong Kong Polytechnic UniversityHung Hom
  2. 2.School of PsychologyDeakin UniversityAustralia

Personalised recommendations