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Conference Paper BHPS-2007 Conference: the 2007 British Household Panel Survey Research Conference, 5 July -7 July 2007, Colchester, UK

Does well-being depend upon our choice of measurement instrument? **do not cite without author's permission


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The British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) contains a number of different variables which pertain to individual well-being. Unfortunately for policy makers, these different measures do not always present the same picture of how well an individual’s life is going. Existing studies have shown that income is poorly correlated with subjective measures of well-being and that different subjective well-being measures are fairly highly correlated between themselves. The factors which improve life satisfaction have been found to be similar to those which improve mental health, although some interesting exceptions have been identified. Being female tends to worsen mental health measures but increase, or be unrelated to, life satisfaction scores and being more educated reduces life satisfaction, yet improves scales focusing on purpose in life and seems unrelated to depression. The wealth of different well-being measures in the BHPS makes it an ideal source to shed light on these anomalies. This paper explores how ten different well-being measures differ in terms of their distribution and the types of people who score highly by each measure. Using multivariate analysis (between and within-person) economic and personal characteristics are found in some cases to have varying relationships with the different wellbeing measures. The analysis supports the finding from the literature that males score more highly in terms of mental health and health-related quality of life but lower on the evaluative well-being measures. As also expected from the literature variation is found in the relationship between education qualifications and different well-being measures. Equivalised income, consumption, and a needs-based measure of well-being for older people (the CASP-19) show a significantly positive impact of each additional education level yet a negative relationship is found for mental health (GHQ12) and life satisfaction measures. Possible reasons for this are explored. Additional analysis finds the relationship between education and both life satisfaction and domain satisfactions to be positive at low levels of satisfaction, yet negative at higher levels.


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