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Subjective Well‐Being

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Subjective well‐being reflects the notion that how people experience a set of circumstances is as important as the circumstances themselves, and that people are the best judges of how their own lives are going. This chapter uses two measures of subjective well‐being: an average measure of how people evaluate their lives as a whole, and a measure of the share of the population experiencing more positive than negative emotions. The chapter finds that, for most OECD countries, levels of subjective well‐being are high, regardless of the measure used. However, there is much variation across countries, and some OECD countries have levels of subjective well‐being that are lower than those experienced by some middleincome or developing nations. Although only limited information is available on changes over time, average life satisfaction appears to have increased over the past thirty years in some countries and stagnated in others. As the limited evidence on subjective well‐being that is currently available is based on small scale unofficial surveys, the chapter draws attention to the importance of building on ongoing initiatives to establish more robust and comparable measures and to forge a better understanding of its drivers.

Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: October 1, 2011


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