It has been assumed that money increases well-being and, although money can be measured with exactitude, it is an inexact surrogate to the actual well-being of a nation. In a 1985 survey, respondents from the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans and the Maasai of East Africa were almost equally satisfied and ranked relatively high in well-being. The Maasai are a traditional herding people who have no electricity or running water and live in huts made of dung. It follows, that economic development and personal income must not account for the happiness that they are so often linked to.
"Scientists are now in the position to assess well-being directly, and therefore should establish a system... to supplement the economic measures," encouraged the report authors, Ed Diener, University of Illinois, and Martin E.P. Seligman, University of Pennsylvania.
The variables measured would include engagement, purpose and meaning, optimism and trust, and positive and negative emotions in specific areas such as work life and social relationships. The periodic assessment of a sample of the population would provide policymakers with a much stronger basis to gauge the well-being of the nation. It would allow them to refocus. "After all, if economic and other polices are important because they will in the end increase well-being, why not assess well-being more directly" the authors ask?
This article is published in the latest issue of the Psychological Science in the Public Interest. For more information, contact Diener at (217) 333-4804 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. A copy of this report is available at http://www.psychologicalscience.org/journals/index.cfm?journal=pspi&content=pspi/home.
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