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The Subjective Happiness Scale and Other Happiness Measures

Happiness Measures

Happiness is one of the most sought after dispositions. Regardless of culture, socioeconomic status and geography Happiness appears to be universally recognized as presented by the World Happiness Report. 

Despite the human pursuit of happiness, it still remains an elusive concept with its factors, determinants and characteristics differing greatly from one individual to the next. While one person may appear happy even during adversity, another can be lavished in luxuries and still feel unhappy.

“…one may conceivably appraise oneself as a very happy person, despite having only a somewhat happy life. Conversely one may identify oneself as a generally unhappy person, despite having felt “pleased”, “proud”, or “particularly excited”, in the previous month.” ((Lyubomirsky & Lepper, 1999)

So how can we measure what truly makes each one of us happy?

Researching Happiness

The topic of happiness and subjective well being has received much interest over the last decade. Even large global businesses and commercial institutions such as Forbes are paying attention to how happiness plays a part in the economy at large.  

Some of the latest research on happiness has found that individuals who do acts of kindness for others are happier than those that only treat themselves. Also it has been found that those who have meaning and purpose in what they do experience high measures of subjective well-being based on their experiences with flow

What we know is that happiness depends on the individual, and as such the research has made use of a combination of self-report questionnaires along with interviews, observations and physiological assessments to gain its current knowledge.

Popular assessments which measure attributes of subjective happiness include The Flourishing Scale, The Satisfaction with Life Scale and the Scale of Positive and Negative Experience. These assessments offer unique and significant insight into the main determinants of happiness. 

Want access to one of these happiness assessments?

In case you would like a complete description of these assessments and a PDF template to hand out to your clients and or students, you can access it by signing up for the 'Positive Psychology Practitioner's Toolkit'. It contains 99 more positive psychology exercises and is already being used by 650+ practitioners and teachers around the world.

While these assessments offer insight into happiness factors, it is necessary to have a measure of the overall subjective experiences of happiness (Lyubomirsky & Lepper, 1999).

The Subjective Happiness Scale

“Most people are subjective towards themselves and objective towards all others, frightfully objective sometimes- but the task is precisely to be objective toward oneself and subjective towards all others.” –Soren Kierkegaard

The Subjective Happiness Scale (SHS) developed by Sonja Lyubomirsky and Heidi Lepper (1999) is the first assessment that offers an overall subjective account of one’s happiness. 

Using their own happiness criteria, individuals can make an overall judgment about how happy (or unhappy) they are.  The SHS considers the respondents’ unique perspective about their own happiness in the format of a brief 4 item questionnaire (Lyubomirsky & Lepper, 1999). Due to its concise nature the SHS can be used informally during an interview. 

The brevity the SHS has not affected its psychometric status as it “meets, and exceeds the minimum psychometric criteria for measurement accuracy”(Lyubomirsky & Lepper, 1999). Almost 3000 participants from 14 samples contributed to the research and the SHS shows good internal validity and reliability.

For information and to download the PDF you can visit Sonja Lyubomirsky’s website

Additional Reading

Lyubomirsky, S. (2007). The how of happiness: A scientific approach to getting the life you want. New York, NY: Penguin Press.

Lyubomirsky, S., & Lepper, H. S. (1999). A measure of subjective happiness: Preliminary reliability and construct validation. Social Indicators Research, 46, 137–155.

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The Subjective Happiness Scale and Other Happiness Measures


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