Social Indicators Research

, Volume 124, Issue 3, pp 835–862 | Cite as

The Personal Wellbeing Index in the South African IsiXhosa Translation: A Qualitative Focus Group Study

  • Valerie MøllerEmail author
  • Benjamin Roberts
  • Dalindyebo Zani


International scholars who rely on the Personal Wellbeing Index (PWI) to compare cross-cultural quality of life have often been confronted with the problems of nuances getting ‘lost in translation’. This qualitative study explored the meaning of the isiXhosa version of the PWI in focus group discussions with native speakers. Participants in the study discussed how they understood and rated their lives on each item in the index. The discourse conveyed the different shades of meaning associated with the PWI items of life satisfaction and eight domains of life. The study found that PWI items related to material well-being, living standards, achievements in life and future (financial) security were best understood. The PWI items referring to personal relationships and community connectedness were seen as nearly identical in meaning. Both translation and cultural factors may be responsible for the conflation of these two items. Noteworthy is that the PWI item on religion and spirituality was seen to embrace both Christian and traditional African beliefs and practice, without prejudice. A new item on daily activities was piloted with good results. The focus group study also showcased the manner in which discussants worked with the rating scale and drew on social comparisons when evaluating global and domain satisfactions. It is concluded that cognitive testing of PWI items in different translations will serve not only to appraise the validity of PWI ratings across cultures, but importantly also opens a window on what makes for a life of quality in a particular social setting.


Personal Wellbeing Index (PWI) Focus group discussions of meanings Cross-cultural quality of life Cognitive testing Second-level deconstruction of life satisfaction 



The study was conducted with generous incentive funding from the South African National Research Foundation (NRF), Grant 85343, as part of the cooperative research programme on Quality of Life in South African and Algeria: A Multi-Method Approach (NRF Grant UID 77926). Views expressed are those of the researchers and should not be attributed to the NRF or others.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Valerie Møller
    • 1
    Email author
  • Benjamin Roberts
    • 2
  • Dalindyebo Zani
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Social and Economic ResearchRhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa
  2. 2.Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery ProgrammeHuman Sciences Research CouncilPretoriaSouth Africa

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