Ruut Veenhoven
Conditions of Happiness, Kluwer Academic, 1984, Dordrecht/Boston

Abstract Chapter 4

Happiness has been measured in many different ways. There is a particularly great variety of interrogation techniques and questions. Most methods were proposed by investigators who failed to define happiness formally or who had in mind a different concept than the one used here.
I therefore inspected all current formats for 'face validity'. This involved the close reading of questions, instructions and eventual further devices, in order to assess whether or not they referred exclusively to one of the phenomena defined in chapter 2. For most indicators it was quite clear whether or not they fit in with the present onception of happiness. Yet there were also cases of doubt, several indicators having both strong and weak sides. Choices on that matter were complicated by the fact that validity demands are not identical for all three happiness variants and that not all servational methods can be judged by the same criteria. he inspection resulted in the rejection of almost half the currently used indicators. It appeared for instance that several questions deal in fact with essentially different matters e.g. with 'social adjustment', 'zestful living', 'optimism', etc. In many cases it was entirely unclear what the indicators actually tapped. Many investigators used, for example, long lists of questions, referring to various items that have at one time or another been associated with 'well-being'. In spite of their statistical construct validity these inventories are theoretically meaningless. The types of indicators that were deemed acceptable are enumerated in the next chapter in exhibit 5/2c. They can be characterized as follows:

Overall happiness
Overall happiness can be assessed by direct questioning only. indirect questions tap essentially different matters. Direct questions referring to the appreciation of life-as-a-whole are preferable to questions using the word 'happiness' as a keyword. Though not ideal, the latter were nevertheless deemed acceptable. Questions can be framed in different formats: in one or more closed questions, in open-ended questions and in focused interviews. In the latter two cases clear instructions for content analysis of responses are required. Peerratings of overall happiness were not accepted.

Hedonic level
Hedonic level of affect can be assessed in three ways: by direct questioning, by indirect questioning and by ratings on the basis of non-verbal behaviour. Again the method of direct questioning is to be preferred : especially when the individual is asked several times during a certain period how pleasant he feels there and then. Though generally less dependable, several indirect methods were deemed acceptable. Some projective items for example seem to be reasonably valid. Ratings by others were also passed, provided rating instructions were sufficiently specific.

Contentment can be measured by means of direct questions only. Like over. all happiness it cannot be validly assessed by indirect questions or by peer ratings. Direct questions must again be specific. They probably work best when preceded by an enumeration of one's major aspirations. Questions can again be framed in various formats.

Finally there are several acceptable indicators that cover two or more of the above mentioned happiness variants. The majority of these consists of single direct questions which by wording or answer format refer both to overall happiness and hedonic level. Some indicators work with multiple questions. Characteristically these questions cover both overall happiness and one or both of its components. One final method in this context is the 'focused interview' of which the 'depth interview' is a variant. Such interrogations tend to broach overall happiness as well as its components. Through lack of clear reports about themes and rating it is mostly difficult to assess their face validity.

The chaff having been separated from the corn, it was then considered whether the three kinds of happiness indicators discussed here do indeed tap somewhat different realities. There are several indications that this is indeed the case. Firstly indicators of the same kind appeared to relate more closely with each other than with indicators of other happiness variants. Secondly indicators of the two happiness components appeared more closely related to indices of overall happiness than to each other. Further there was evidence from at least one investigation that indices of hedonic level and contentment are more or less independently linked to a measure of overall happiness and that this variation was to some extent independent of the former two. Finally the three happiness indicators appear to relate somewhat differently to factors such as 'age', 'health', 'social involvement' and 'intentions to change one's life'.