The Subjective Happiness Scale and Other Happiness Measures

Happiness Positive Psychology
Photo by Priscilla du Preez from Unsplash

Regardless of culture, socioeconomic status or geography, happiness is one of the most sought after dispositions, according to the World Happiness Report

The human pursuit of happiness 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 despite adversity, another can live a life of luxury 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 act for themselves. 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.

Using a combination of self-report questionnaires along with interviews, observations and physiological assessments to gain current knowledge, researchers have found that happiness depends upon the individual and their unique characteristics and experience.

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.

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.  Gathering data from 3000 participants, the SHS considers the respondents’ unique perspective about their own happiness in the format of a brief four-item questionnaire (Lyubomirsky & Lepper, 1999). Due to its concise nature, the SHS can be used informally during an interview.

For information and to download a PDF of the SHS you can visit Sonja Lyubomirsky’s website.

Happiness and what determines it has implications for many fields. These assessment tools have the potential to transform how we understand happiness today.

What is your opinion about happiness ratings and measurements? Please share your experience in the comments section below.

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  1. Javier

    love your work


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