Human Well-Being

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Human Well-Being

Physical and mental health · Knowledge and understanding · Work and Leisure (Work, Leisure) · Material Well-Being · Freedom and Self-Determination · Interpersonal relationships · Development and Poverty (Development, Poverty) · Inequality · Children


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Definition of human well-being

While there is no unaninmous definition of human well-being, well-being can be considered a unifying concept and a characteristic of both the objective and subjective factors which constitute health and quality of life.[1] The variance in definitions is often due to the categorization and weighting of the different factors which are thought to measure well-being. Subjective Well-being measures or subjective Social Indicators are based on surveys collecting people's own evaluation of momentary well-being or general life satisfation while objective Social Indicators are based on assumptions about basic human needs and rights.

Human well-being

  • Well-being is understood as a a state of health, happiness and/or prosperity. In a broad unterstanding, well-being is living a good life with which one is satisfied.
  • Well-being and deprivation can be considered representing different sides of the same coin.[2]
  • "Well-being is a state of being with others, where human needs are met, where one can act meaningfully to pursue one's goals, and where one enjoys a satisfactory quality of life".[3]
  • “Well-being is most usefully thought of as the dynamic process that gives people a sense of how their lives are going through the interaction between their circumstances, activities and psychological resources or 'mental capital”. [4]
  • Well-being is an intangible concept of several human dimensions. There have been many studies of well-being that have been accumulated over the years, and there exists an evidence of a flowering of new interests. Well-being can be defined as an expression of life satisfaction, as a way to influence the quality of society and its citizens.

Recent studies of several organisations all over the world show the relation between well-being and progress of societies, focusing on sustainability, quality of life etc. These studies have been done at the sub-national, national and international level, involving the public and private sectors, civil society, academia and media, in both developed and developing countries.

Accounts of well-being

There are three accounts of wellbeing that are useful in policy because they satisfy the general conditions of theoretical rigour, policy relevance and empirical robustness. These three are objective lists of social indicators, preference satisfaction (income that can be allocated freely according to one's satisfaction, and Subjective Well-being.[5]

The Report of the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress

The report by the "Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress" (The Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Report) identified eight key dimensions that should be taken into account when defining human well-being. These eight dimensions, to be considered simultaneously, are:

  • 1) Material living standards (income, consumption and wealth);
  • 2) Health;
  • 3) Education;
  • 4) Personal activities including work;
  • 5) Political voice and governance;
  • 6) Social connections and relationships;
  • 7) Environment (present and future conditions); and
  • 8) Insecurity, of an economic as well as physical nature.

The Report, and its findings, are founded on the belief that measuring human well-being goes beyond subjective self-reports and perceptions, and must include an objective measure of the extent of peoples’ "opportunity set" and their capacity (or freedom) to choose from among these opportunities the life they value. Thus, the Report’s findings are based upon the assumption that freedom of opportunity is an inherent feature of the measure of human well-being.  Furthermore, the Report posits that the sustainability of well-being factors measured is an integral factor in terms of their worth.[6] Beyond these founding assumptions, the Report recognizes that both objective and subjective factors are important in the measurement of the eight dimentions of human well-being listed above.


Why measure human well-being?

The Commission’s Report states that a there is a greater need for indicators measuring human well-being due to “the limits of GDP as an indicator of economic performance and social progress.” [7]


In what manner should human well-being be measured?

The Commission’s Report submits that one of the main purposes of creating indicators that measure human well-being is to assess the inequalities in well-being in each of the report's eight key dimensions in a “comprehensive way,” with composite indicators. This meaning, the indicators of well-being and the inequalities that are uncovered should not be assessed independently, but should be linked and correlated to other factors of well-being and inequality in terms of individuals, socio-economic groups, gender, and generations.[6]


How to measure human well-being

Measuring human well-being requires the subjective act of defining and creating models and measurements of that which defines health and quality of life. According to Sarvimaki, this requires an opinion of what it means to be a "whole human being" as well as what is worthwhile in life, and how we ought to live.[1]

Traditionally, well-being is measured by objective or social indicators such as educational outcome or household income. However, such indicators are only a proxy for the quality of people's lifes. More recently, people's perspective of their lives have started to be valued in informing policy making. Subjective well-being is measured through surveys asking people about their satisfaction and happiness about multiple facets of well-being. Their findings can be an important complement in understanding what matters in people's day-to-day lives. Some measures of well-being only include objective indicators, some only subjective indicators and some measures use both subjective and objective measures of well-being. These last measures either have one dimension called "subjective well-being" or proxy well-being domains by a combination of subjective and objective indicators. Measures of well-being tend to look at the same dimensions but proxy them by different measurement methodologies.

Objective measures

The Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission found the following objective measures necessary in measuring human well-being along the lines of the “eight key dimensions”: 1) personal income, consumption and wealth; 2) mortality and morbidity; 3) educational enrolment, graduation rates, years completed, standardized test scores and expenditure on education; 4) time spent on personal activities including paid and unpaid work, commuting, and leisure time; 5) measures of housing; 6) political voice (freedom of speech, dissent, and association) and governance (corruption, accountability, democracy, universal suffrage, and non-citizen rights); 7) social connections (volunteer work, civic engagement, and the amount, nature, and breadth of connections generally); 8) environment (econsystems health, access to environmental resources, individual exposure to pollutants); 9) personal insecurity (crime, accidents, natural disasters); and 10) economic insecurity (job security, illness and health issues, and global economic trends).[8]

Subjective measures

The Commission recommends quantitatively measuring subjective aspects of individuals’ well-being via evaluations of one’s life, happiness, satisfaction, positive emotions of pride and joy, and negative emotions of pain and worry. [9]


Human well-being related indices


See also


Human well-being blogs

Human well-being related scholarly works

  1. Does Globalization affect Human Well-Being?
  2. Basic Guide to the World, Quality of Life Throughout the World
  3. Caught in the Time Crunch - Time Use, Leisure and Culture in Canada
  4. Economic Growth and Subjective Well-Being: Reassessing the Easterlin Paradox
  5. Academic resources for measuring well-being
  6. Chopra, D. (2005). Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Policy Responses of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Washington D.C.: Island Press.
  7. Basic Guide to the World, Quality of Life Throughout the World

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Sarvimaki, A. (2006). Well-being as a being well--a Heideggerian look at well-being. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being , 4-10.
  2. An Index of Child Well-being in the European Union
  3. ESRC Research Group on Wellbeing in Developing Countries, http://www.welldev.org.uk
  4. NEF, New Economics Foundation, http://www.neweconomics.org/gen/well-being_current.aspx
  5. Dolan, P., Layard, R. and Metcalfe, R. (2011), "Measuring Subjective Wellbeing for Public Policy: Recommendations on Measures", special Paper No. 23, Center for Economic Performance, March. p. 6. Available at: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/special/cepsp23.pdf
  6. 6.0 6.1 Sen, A., Stiglitz, J. E., & Fitoussi, J.-P. (2009). Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. Paris, France: The Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress.(p 15)
  7. Sen, A., Stiglitz, J. E., & Fitoussi, J.-P. (2009). Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. Paris, France: The Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. (p 7)
  8. Sen, A., Stiglitz, J. E., & Fitoussi, J.-P. (2009). Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. Paris, France: The Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. (pgs 41-44)
  9. Sen, A., Stiglitz, J. E., & Fitoussi, J.-P. (2009). Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. Paris, France: The Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. (p 16)

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