Can “life satisfaction” be measured? How can a few questions be any kind of scientific measure of happiness, in the sense of my satisfaction with life?
Well, the “Satisfaction with Life Scale” below was developed by the man some call “Dr. Happiness,” who has studied this subject more than 25 years, who TIME magazine featured first among researchers in its January 17, 2005 special issue on happiness research. Dr. Ed Diener from the University of Illinois didn’t just make up five questions off the top of his head and call it a scientific instrument. There are a variety of ways to test such scales, and this one has been found to be valid (internally consistent, distinct) and reliable (stable) for both young and old.
Satisfaction with Life Scale
Try it yourself. Here are Dr. Diener’s instructions for taking the short survey questionnaire:
Below are five statements that you may agree or disagree with. Using the 1 – 7 scale below indicate your agreement with each item by placing the appropriate number on the line preceding that item. Please be open and honest in your responding.
7 – Strongly agree
6 – Agree
5 – Slightly agree
4 – Neither agree nor disgree
3 – Slightly disagree
2 – Disgree
1 – Strongly disgree
____ In most ways my life is close to my ideal.
____ The conditions of my life are excellent.
____ I am satisfied with my life.
____ So far I have gotten the important things I want in life.
____ If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing.
Add the numbers you wrote beside each of the five questions to get a total. See below.
- 31 – 35 Extremely satisfied
- 26 – 30 Satisfied
- 21 – 25 Slightly satisfied
- 20 Neutral
- 15 – 19 Slightly dissatisfied
- 10 – 14 Dissatisfied
- 5 – 9 Extremely dissatisfied
We’ll be talking about the important issue of life satisfaction more in future posts. For now, make a list of things you are grateful for, if you haven’t already in conjunction with my “Gratitude leads to psychological and physical well-being” post. Think about your major activities and how they contribute to life satisfaction. For example, is there some improvement you could make to your work situation that would allow you to create more value? use your personal strengths more? help you get more involved in your work, get in the zone (find “flow”), and be more creative? or help you have a richer, fuller experience?
If on the other hand you are depressed or think you might be depressed, please pay it proper attention and get help. Among other benefits, overcoming depression is a key to life satisfaction; in a recent study, anxiety or anger had very little impact on life satisfaction compared to depression. Depression is a serious condition and should not be ignored.
Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (1993). Review of the Satisfaction with Life Scale. Psychological Assessment, 5, 164-172.
Schimmack, U., Oishi, S., Furr, B M., & Funder, D. C. (2004). Personality and life satisfaction: A facet level analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 1062-1075.
*The Satisfaction with Life Scale is in the public domain (not copyrighted) and so can be used without permission and free of charge.