The European Social Survey has been collecting methodologically robust cross-national data on wellbeing every two years since 2002, providing researchers and policymakers with a rich dataset with which to explore Europeans’ wellbeing. The survey includes summary measures of subjective wellbeing as part of its core questionnaire and more in-depth data on wellbeing as a part of thematic ‘rotating modules’.
The ESS has been collecting methodologically robust cross-national data on wellbeing every two years since 2002. The survey includes summary measures of subjective wellbeing as part of its core questionnaire, asked of respondents in each round. More in-depth data on wellbeing is also provided for some rounds where thematic ‘rotating modules’ (which vary from round to round) have focused on different aspects of wellbeing. These data on wellbeing are collected alongside a large number of socio-demographic background variables and questions asking about other important social and political topics, providing researchers and policymakers with a rich dataset with which to explore Europeans’ wellbeing.
The ESS core questionnaire includes the two most common measures of subjective wellbeing: HAPPINESS and LIFE SATISFACTION. These measures have been asked every two years since 2002/2003.
C1. Taking all things together, how happy would you say you are?
B20. All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole nowadays? Please answer using this card, where 0 means extremely dissatisfied and 10 means extremely satisfied.
While HAPPINESS is usually conceptualised in terms of people’s emotional responses and measures their current feelings, LIFE SATISFACTION is conceptualised in terms of their cognitive or evaluative responses and measures how people evaluate their life as a whole (Clark and Senik, 2011).
These two core items can be analysed both as dependent (outcome) and independent (explanatory) variables depending on the question of interest. They can be analysed alongside a variety of other variables in the ESS, e.g. subjective evaluations of personal health, household income, employment, social conditions or education to understand more about the distribution of wellbeing across the population and factors that may help to promote wellbeing. A list of topics covered by the ESS core questionnaire is shown below:
The growing time series provided by the ESS core questionnaire (which began in 2002/2003) provides opportunities to examine how wellbeing may have changed over time, for example, in response to events such as the economic crisis precipitated in 2008. Combining ESS data on subjective wellbeing with national and regional level contextual data (e.g. Human Development Index or Global Gender Gap Index) provides additional opportunities for cross-national studies examining differences in Europeans’ wellbeing.
In each round of the ESS, multi-national teams of researchers are selected to contribute to the design of two rotating modules for the questionnaire. Some of the thematic rotating modules are repeated to enable cross-sectional time series analysis. Figure 1 presents the rotating modules fielded in ESS Rounds 1-8. Data from the rotating modules can be linked to the wellbeing measures in the core questionnaire to understand more about potential drivers of wellbeing. In addition, several of the rotating modules have had a specific focus on wellbeing, allowing an in-depth exploration of this topic.
The ESS core questionnaire includes the two most common measures of subjective wellbeing: HAPPINESS and LIFE SATISFACTION
ESS fielded a rotating module on ‘Personal and social wellbeing’ in Round 3 (2006/2007) and Round 6 (2012/2013)
A rotating module on ‘Family, work and wellbeing’ was fielded in Round 2 (2004/2005) and Round 5 (2010/2011)