Measuring happiness & wellbeing

Over in the UK, the government has decided to try to measure the nation’s happiness and wellbeing.

For happiness, they’re asking to people to answer the following questions, on a scale of 0 to 10:
• how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?
• how happy did you feel yesterday?
• how anxious did you feel yesterday?
• to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?

For wellbeing, well … they’re not yet quite sure how they’re going to measure this.

The Guardian has a couple of stories on this effort today:
Happiness index planned to influence government policy
So, how do you measure wellbeing and happiness?

Anyone out there keeping track of your own happiness or wellbeing? How are you doing it? Any suggestions to pass on to those UK civil servants?

I ping myself randomly throughout the day, asking me “How happy I am right now?” from 1-10. I also record what’s making me feel good and what’s making me feel good. The idea is to measure moment-to-moment happiness as opposed to remembering happiness. For analysis, I do a simple linear regression on the tags, and I make a pie chart based on their total contribution to my happiness and unhappiness.

I feel like this is a better approach than trying to remember how I felt before. Sample life instead of memory of life! If you’re only going to ask someone once, though, I guess you’ll get more data out of a retrospection question.

[quote]I ping myself randomly throughout the day, asking me “How happy I am right now?” from 1-10. [/quote]What technical solution do you use for the pinging?

Annoyster (iPhone app) + tiny pocket notebook when I’m not at my computer, Chrome desktop notification from a page on my website + Emacs org-mode spreadsheet when I am at my computer. My friend has paid a guy to develop a simple Android app so that he can do this just with his phone, but he doesn’t want to do the tags.

Rajiv, you could be referring to another thing, but I believe that the UK is working with Gallup and Healthways on this:

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® is the first and most comprehensive monthly assessment of residents’ health and well-being in the United Kingdom. By interviewing 1,000 adults every month, the Well-Being Index provides real-time measurement and insights needed to improve health and well-being, increase productivity, and lower healthcare costs. Public and private sector leaders use data on life evaluation, physical health, emotional health, healthy behaviour, work environment, and basic access to develop and prioritise strategies to help their communities thrive and grow.

Full disclosure: I work for MeYou Health which is owned by Healthways.

A lot of what we do is measured by well-being assessments. We use a 42 question well-being assessment (created by PROChange) in our main product, and Deepak Chopra has recently been tweeting about a version that we created to run on Twitter at We also transformed the assessment into a Facebook Quiz/Zen Garden adventure:

All of these are attempts at understanding how we measure well-being, how people engage with the assessment, and how they identify with the 0-100 well-being score.

Thanks Nick! Annoyster is just what I’ve been looking for. Finally, I can use random sampling… as long as I can stand it.

I like the idea of tagging as well. Will you be coding the tags for analysis or are they included for exploratory reasons (or both)?

I code them. Here’s one good category:

        'pyro': ['awesome underwater thermite burn earlier',
                 'awesome thermite earlier', 'out thermiting',
                 'planning to destroy kryptonite bike lock'

Here’s a bad category:

        'eating (bad)': ['bad nutrition', 'not much food to eat',
                         'no nutrition', 'eating breakfast',
                         'ate unhealthy pizza', 'nuts in teeth', 'cupcake bloat',
                         'cheat day bloat', 'tired from food bloat', 
                         'tired from eating pizza', 'too full',
                         'mouth got nut bits', 'no good food today',

So I can see that the effect size of “pyro” averages +1.0 / 10 happiness points, but that since it happens infrequently, its total contribution to happiness is only 0.6%. Whereas “eating (bad)” averages -0.6 / 10 but contributes 1.5% of the unhappiness.

[quote=“Trapper_Markelz, post:5, topic:166”]
Rajiv, you could be referring to another thing, but I believe that the UK is working with Gallup and Healthways on this:[/quote]

Trapper — from the news blurb on the Guardian, this new attempt seems separate from the Gallup/Healthways surveys.

One of the things that seemed nice about the 4-question happiness survey is how simple it is. Just 4 questions, easily answered. Which seems like something one could do for oneself.

Given your experience, what would you recommend to people who want to track their daily happiness?

There are quite a few apps for wearable devices that measure your overall health, but I work for a company that uses them to get emotional insights about second-to-second states of mind. To measure happiness and wellbeing, metrics like affinity (your desire to approach a situation) and engagement (how your skin conductivity sends action-signals to your decision-making centers in your brain) would be able to answer some questions you have about your state of mind.

Check it out: