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Subjective Well-Being and Quality of Life: Approaches, Criteria, and Indicators

2011
Department: Positive Psychology and Life Quality Research Team
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

Research Object:  Subjective well-being understood as a generalized evaluation of life as a whole that includes both emotional and rational components and is an operationalization of the philosophical term ‘happiness’, as well as an associated concept of the quality of life.

The problem of the optimal states in life and the pathways that lead to them is a promising and highly in-demand research area that is a cornerstone of positive psychology, transcending its limits. However, the ways the key concepts used in our project (quality of life, happiness, well-being, subjective well-being, and psychological well-being) are related and differentiated is not yet completely clear in literature.

Research Aim:  The development and empirical validation of a system of indicators that would allow individual quality of life and related aspects of subjective well-being to be measured.

Specific Reesearch Goals:

  • An analytical review of psychological, sociological, and other sources on the topics of quality of life, subjective well-being, and associated measurement issues.
  • Development of an interdisciplinary model of the quality of life and subjective well-being, provided with a system of operational indicators for subsequent use in research.
  • An empirical validation of a series of Russian-language psychometric instruments that could be used for the empirical study and assessment of practical psychological approaches (exemplified by coaching) toward maintaining and increasing subjective well-being.

Modern theoretical and empirical approaches to happiness, quality of life, and subjective well-being in psychology and related spheres are presented in the three sections of the review. An analysis of the usage of the key terms stated above in contemporary human sciences is presented, and an attempt to differentiate the meaning of those terms is made. The main methodological problems associated with well-being measurement and its underlying factors are stated. The reviewed results indicate that the extent of happiness and subjective well-being experience is much more strongly associated with stable personality features (both inborn and acquired) than with life circumstances and socioeconomic situation. Personality-controllable factors, such as relationship characteristics, goals, values, and world-view, are also important predictors of well-being. The results of the analytical review indicate that the key terms overlap conceptually and are often used as synonyms, which makes it possible to unite them in a single framework by creating an original integral empirical model of happiness, quality of life, and well-being. In this model, happiness is viewed from the self-regulation angle and is defined as a feedback phenomenon, the experience of a match between our desires and reality. Two different types of happiness can be distinguished: a happiness-minimum (which is universal and can be reached by the satisfaction of basic needs) and eudaimonic happiness, or happiness-maximum (which can be reached by achieving personal, meaningful goals and enacting individual existential projects). Quality of life is characterised as a given system of external preconditions of life that can be either favourable or adverse to reaching happiness.

The following section of the text presents existing approaches to life quality measurement and assessment in economics, the social sciences, medicine, and healthcare. The most widely used life quality assessment tools are critically reviewed, revealing their advantages and limitations. The results are described in a series of successful validation studies of a number of psychometric instruments necessary for life quality and subjective well-being empirical research and assessment, including Russian versions of the Life Quality and Satisfaction Questionnaire (Endikott et al., 1993), Satisfaction With Life Scale (Diener, Emmons, Larsen, Griffin, 1985), Subjective Happiness Scale (Lyubomirsky, Lepper, 1999), Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (Watson, Clark, 1994), and basic need satisfaction scale SATIS by D.A. Leontiev. The development of a new integral work satisfaction questionnaire, an improvement upon an existing one (Batarshev, 2002), was also initiated. The validation and standardisation of the scales was undertaken using diverse and numerous samples, including university students of different fields (medicine, the humanities, the natural sciences, and technical) from Moscow, Taganrog, and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky; high school students from Moscow, Biysk, and Magadan; adult volunteers; continuing-education psychology students; and employees of a large Russian production company.

The final section reviews the possibilities offered by existing practical approaches to maintain and increase subjective well-being. The history of coaching as a social practice, discipline, and a helping profession was analysed, as well as efficiency criteria and existing research in the area. The analysis reveals the natural association between coaching and positive psychology: coaching provides a context for applying and evaluating positive psychological ideas; it also opens a field for understanding the intervention and change potential offered by positive psychological theory and research. Positive psychological data provides an understanding of pathways towards effective coaching for well-being and peak performance.

Publications:


Александрова Л. А., Лебедева А. А., Леонтьев Д. А., Рассказова Е. И. Личностные ресурсы преодоления затрудненных условий развития // В кн.: Личностный потенциал: структура и диагностика / Науч. ред.: Д. А. Леонтьев. М. : Смысл, 2011. С. 579-610.