Tag Archives: Subjective well-being definition

This is an abstract from the book: A course in happiness, meaning, motivation, and well-being

Eudaimonia is a classical Greek word, commonly translated as happiness. Consisting of the word “eu” (“good” or “well being”) and “daimōn” (“spirit”, used by extension one’s fortune), it often refers to human flourishing. It was a central concept in ancient Greek ethics, along with the term “arete” (virtue) and “phronesis” (practical or moral wisdom). Webster dictionary defines happiness as “A) state of well-being and contentment, joy. B) a pleasurable or satisfying experience”.
These definitions show that the different aspects of happiness are given different importance by different people; the meaning of happiness in the ears of the listener. For some, it is an inflated term plastered on self-help books; for others, a way of living achieved by living in harmony with ourselves, events, conditions, people and environment around us.

Subjective well-being is not the same as happiness, even if such terms are often used as synonymous. Subjective well-being, as defined by Ed Diener, covers “a broad category of phenomena that includes people’s emotional responses, domain satisfactions, and global judgements of life satisfaction. Subjective well-being consists of two distinctive components: an affective part (evaluation guided by emotions and feeling), which refers to both the presence of positive affect (PA) and the absence of negative affect (NA), and a cognitive part (information-based appraisal of one’s life, evaluated using expectations and “ideal life” as benchmark). It is commonly abbreviated as SWB.

The usage of the term “subjective well-being”, or even the term “joy”, is much less widespread then the one “happiness”. While we use happiness in the title of this Book because that is what people search for and it is widely mentioned in the field of positive psychology, a suitable way to rephrase it is, in our opinion, “living joyfully” (when referred to the ordinary meaning of the word), and to use the already mentioned “subjective well-being” which is the accepted standard when it comes to scientific research.

Measuring subjective well-being
There are several ways to measure SWB , both on a collective and individual basis. Often, countries are ranked by their happiness, and cities by how liveable they are. One ranking system is based on how well nations combine level and differences in happiness, for the period 2000-2009, as reported by Veenhoven, R., World Database of Happiness, Erasmus University Rotterdam (available at: http://worlddatabaseofhappiness.eur.nl accessed on July 7th, 2010).

This ranks the most liveable cities in the World, as reported by Economist Intelligent Survey (available on: http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2009/06/liveable_vancouver accessed on July 7th, 2010).