On the Trail of the Gold Standard for Subjective Well-Being

  • Robert A. Cummins
Part of the Social Indicators Research Series book series (SINS, volume 26)


The absence of a ‘gold standard’ for subjective well-being has severely hampered the interpretation of data from empirical studies. This paper demonstrates a remarkable consistency among the results of 16 studies that have investigated ‘life satisfaction’ among large samples drawn from the general population. It is concluded that a population standard for ‘life satisfaction’ can be expressed as 75.0 ± 2.5 percent of the measurement scale maximum score.


Life Satisfaction Intellectual Disability Life Scale Global Life Satisfaction Social Indicator Research 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aaronson, N. K., W. Bakker, A. L. Stewart, F. S. A. M. Van Dam, Y. Van Zandwijk, Jr. and A. Kirkpatrick: 1987, ‘Multidimensional approach to the measurement of quality of life in lung cancer clinical trials’, in N. K. Aaronson and J. Beckmann (eds.), The Quality of Life of Cancer Patients (Raven Press, New York), pp. 63–82.Google Scholar
  2. Adams, D. L.: 1969, ‘Analysis of a life satisfaction index’, Journal of Gerontology 24, 470–474.Google Scholar
  3. Andrews, F. M.: 1991, ‘Stability and change in levels and structure of subjective well-being: USA 1972 and 1988’, Social Indicators Research 25, 1–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Andrews, F. M and A. C. McKennel: 1980, ‘Measures of self-reported well being: Their affective, cognitive, and other components’, Social Indicators Research 8, 127–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Andrews, F. M. and S. B. Withey: 1976, Social Indicators of Well-being: Americans’ Perceptions of Life Quality (Plenum Press, New York).Google Scholar
  6. Atkinson, T.: 1982, ‘The stability and validity of quality of life measures’, Social Indicators Research 10, 113–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baker, F. and J. Intagliata: 1982, ‘Quality of life in the evaluation of community support systems’, Evaluation and Program Planning 5, 69–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bortner, R. W. and D. F. Hultsch: 1970, ‘A multivariate analysis of correlates of life satisfaction in adulthood’, Journal of Gerontology 25, 41–47.Google Scholar
  9. Boucher, J. and C. E. Osgood: 1969, ‘The Polly anna hypothesis’, Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 8, 1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bowling, A.: 1990, ‘Associations with life satisfaction among very elderly people living in a deprived part of inner London’, Social Science and Medicine 31, 1003–1011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bowling, A., M. Farquhar and P. Browne: 1991, ‘Life satisfaction and associations with social network and support variables in three samples of elderly people’, International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 6, 549–566.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bramston, P.: 1994, Personal communication.Google Scholar
  13. Branholm, I. B. and E. A. Degerman: 1992, ‘Life satisfaction and activity preferences in parents of Down’s Syndrome children’, Scandinavian Journal of Social Medicine 20, 37–44.Google Scholar
  14. Brickman, P., D. Coates and R. Janoff-Bulman: 1978, ‘Lottery winners and accident victims: Is happiness relative?’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 36, 917–927.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Brief, A. P., A. H. Butcher, J. M. George and K. E. Link: 1993, ‘Integrating bottom-up and top-down theories of subjective well-being: The case of health’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 64, 646–654.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Campbell, A., P. E. Converse and W. L. Rodgers: 1976, The Quality of American Life (Russell Sage Foundation, New York).Google Scholar
  17. Cantril, H.: 1965, The Pattern of Human Concerns (Rutgers University Press, New Jersey).Google Scholar
  18. Cummins, R. A.: 1993, The Comprehensive Quality of Life Scale: Intellectual Disability. Fourth edition (School of Psychology, Deakin University, Melbourne).Google Scholar
  19. Cummins, R. A., M. P. McCabe and Y. Romeo: 1994, ‘The Comprehensive Quality of Life Scale-Intellectual Disability: Results from a Victoria Survey’, Proceedings, 28th National Conference of the Australian Society for the Study of Intellectual Disability, pp. 93–98.Google Scholar
  20. Diener, E., R. A. Emmons, R. J. Larson and S. Griffin: 1985, ‘The satisfaction with life scale’, Journal of Personality Assessment 49, 71–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ferrans, C. E. and M. J. Powers: 1992, ‘Psychometric assessment of the quality of life index’, Research in Nursing and Health 15, 29–38.Google Scholar
  22. Flanagan, J. C: 1978, ‘A research approach to improving our quality of life’, American Psychologist 33, 138–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gill, W. M.: 1984, ‘Monitoring the subjective well-being of chronically ill patients over time’, Community Health Studies 8, 288–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Goldings, H. J.: 1954, ‘On the avowal and projection of happiness’, Journal of Personality 23, 30–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gover, W. R., M. Hughes and C. B. Style: 1983, ‘Does marriage have positive effects on the psychological well-being of the individual?’, Journal of Health and Social Behavior 24, 122–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hall, J.: 1973, ‘Measuring the quality of life using sample surveys’, in J. Stober and D. Schumacher (eds.), Technology Assessment and Quality of Life (Elsevier, Amsterdam), pp. 93–102.Google Scholar
  27. Harris, L. and Associates: 1975, The Myth and Reality of Aging in America. (National Council on Aging, Washington, DC).Google Scholar
  28. Headey, B. and A. Wearing: 1988, “The sense of relative superiority: Central to well-being”, Social Indicators Research 20, 497–516.Google Scholar
  29. Headey, B. and A. Wearing: 1992, Understanding Happiness: A Theory of Subjective Well-Being (Longman Cheshire, Melbourne).Google Scholar
  30. Headey, B. and A. Wearing: 1994, Victorian Quality of Life Panel Study, personal communication.Google Scholar
  31. Helson, H.: 1964, Adaption-Level Theory (Harper & Row, New York).Google Scholar
  32. Hicks, F. D., J. L. Larson and C. E. Ferrans: 1992, ‘Quality of life after liver transplant’, Research in Nursing & Health 15, 111–119.Google Scholar
  33. Hoyert, D. L. and M. M. Seltzer: 1992, ‘Factors related to the well-being and life activities of family caregivers’, Family Relations 41, 74–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Huxley, P. and R. Warner: 1992, ‘Case management, quality of life and satisfaction with services of long-term psychiatric patients’, Hospital and Community Psychiatry 43, 799–802.Google Scholar
  35. Judge, T. A. and S. Watanabe: 1993, ‘Another look at the job satisfaction-life satisfaction relationship’, Journal of Applied Psychology 78, 939–948.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Keith, K. D., R. L. Shalock and K. Hoffman: 1986, Quality of life: Measurement and Programmatic Implications (Mental Retardation Services, Nebraska).Google Scholar
  37. Kober, B., T. Kuchler, C. Broelsch, B. Kremer and D. Henne-Bruns: 1990, ‘A psychological support concept and quality of life research in a liver transplantation program: An interdisciplinary multicenter study’, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 54, 117–131.Google Scholar
  38. Koch, U. and F. A. Muthny: 1990, ‘Quality of life in patients with end-stage renal disease in relation to the method of treatment’, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 54, 161–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Krause, J.S.: 1992, ‘Life satisfaction after spinal cord injury: A descriptive study’, Rehabilitation Psychology 37, 61–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lough, M. E., A. M. Lindsey, J. A. Shinn and N. A. Stotts: 1985, ‘Life satisfaction following heart transplantation’, Journal of Heart Transplantation 4, 446–449.Google Scholar
  41. Man, P.: 1991, ‘The influence of peers and parents on youth life satisfaction in Hong Kong’, Social Indicators Research 24, 347–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Makarczyk, W.: 1962, ‘Factors affecting life satisfaction among people in Poland’, Polish Sociological Bulletin 1, 105–116.Google Scholar
  43. Mastekaasa, A.: 1992, ‘Marriage and psychological well being: Some evidence on selection into marriage’, Journal of Marriage and the Family 54, 901–911.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Mastekaasa, A.: 1994, Personal communication.Google Scholar
  45. Moller, V.: 1988, ‘Quality of life in retirement: A case study of Zulu return migrants’, Social Indicators Research 20, 621–658.Google Scholar
  46. Moller, V.: 1992, ‘Spare time use and perceived well-being among black South African youth’, Social Indicators research 26, 309–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Mookherjee, H. N.: 1992, ‘Perceptions of well-being by metropolitan and non-metropolitan populations in the United States’, Journal of Social Psychology 132, 513–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Mourn, T.: 1994, ‘Is subjective well-being a predictor of nonresponse in broad population surveys?’, Social Indicators Research 32, 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Mutiny, F. A., U. Koch and S. Stump: 1990, ‘Quality of life in oncology patients’, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 54, 145–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Nathawat, S. S. and A. Mathur: 1993, ‘Marital adjustment and subjective well-being in Indian-educated housewives and working women’, The Journal of Psychology 127, 353–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Neugarten, B. L., R. J. Havighurst and S. S. Tobin: 1961, ‘The measurement of life satisfaction’, Journal of Gerontology 16, 134–143.Google Scholar
  52. Oliver, J.P.J.: 1988, ‘The quality of life of the chronically mentally disabled’. Research Progress Report, cited by P. Huxley and R. Warner: 1992, ‘Case management, quality of life, and satisfaction with services of long-term psychiatric patients’, Hospital and Community Psychiatry 43, 799–802.Google Scholar
  53. Oppong, J. R., R. G. Ironside and L. W. Kennedy: 1988, ‘Perceived quality of life in a centre-periphery framework’, Social Indicators Research 20, 605–620.Google Scholar
  54. Palmore, E. and C. Luikart: 1972, ‘Health and social factors related to life satisfaction’, Journal of Health and Social Behaviour 13, 68–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Pavot, W. and E. Diener: 1993, ‘Review of the satisfaction with life scale’, Psychological Assessment 5, 164–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Ramsay, J. O.: 1973, ‘The effect of number of categories in rating scales on precision of estimation of scale values’, Psychometrika 38, 513–532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Roy Morgan Research: 1993, International Values Audit, 22/23 May (Roy Morgan Research Center, Melbourne).Google Scholar
  58. Schalock, R. L., K. D. Keith, K. Hoffman and O. C. Karan: 1989, “Quality of life: Its measurement and use”, Mental Retardation 27, 25–31.Google Scholar
  59. Schulz, R. and S. Decker: 1985, ‘Long-term adjustment to physical disability: The role of social support, perceived control, and self-blame’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 48, 1162–1172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Schmotkin, D.: 1990, ‘Subjective well-being as a function of age and gender: A multivariate look for differentiated trends’, Social Indicators Research 23. 201–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Shmotkin, D.: 1991, ‘The structure of the Life Satisfaction Index A in elderly Israeli adults’, International Journal of Aging and Human Development 33 131–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Stensman, R.: 1985, ‘Severely mobility-disabled people assess the quality of their lives’, Scandinavian Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine 17, 87–99.Google Scholar
  63. Taylor, S. E., J. V. Wood and R. R. Lichtman: 1983, ‘It could be worse: Selective evaluation as a response to victimization’, Journal of Social Issues 39, 19–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. White, J. M.: 1992, Marital status and well-being in Canada — An analysis of age group variations’, Journal of Family Issues 13, 390–399.Google Scholar
  65. Ying, Y-W.: 1992, ‘Life Satisfaction among San-Francisco Chinese-Americans’, Social Indicators Research 26, 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert A. Cummins
    • 1
  1. 1.School of PsychologyDeakin UniversityVictoriaAustralia

Personalised recommendations