Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Measuring Happiness with a Single-Item Scale

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Measuring Happiness with a Single-Item Scale

Article excerpt

This study examined the accuracy of measuring happiness by a single item (Do you feel happy in general?) answered on an 11-point scale (0-10). Its temporal stability was 0.86. The correlations between the single item and both the Oxford Happiness Inventory (OHI; Argyle, Martin, & Lu, 1995; Hills & Argyle, 1998) and the Satisfaction with Life Scale (Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985; Pavot & Diener, 1993) were highly significant and positive, denoting good concurrent validity. Moreover, the single item had a good convergent validity because it was highly and positively correlated with optimism, hope, self-esteem, positive affect, extraversion, and self-ratings of both physical and mental health. Furthermore, the divergent validity of the single item has been adequately demonstrated through its significant and negative correlations with anxiety, pessimism, negative affect, and insomnia. It was concluded that measuring happiness by a single item is reliable, valid, and viable in community surveys as well as in cross-cultural comparisons.

Keywords: happiness, assessment, single-item scale, reliability, validity.

In the last quarter of a century there has been a surge of interest in, and a plethora of studies on, positive psychology. Foremost among these are studies on happiness, well-being, satisfaction, hope, and optimism (Myers & Diener, 1995). The general objective of the current investigation was to explore the accuracy of a single-item scale to assess happiness.

One may ask: What is happiness? Veenhoven (1995) defined happiness or life satisfaction as the degree to which one judges the quality of one's life favorably (p. 34). Based on Veenhoven's view (1994), the two constructs, happiness and life satisfaction, have been used synonymously in the present investigation. However, Cummins (1998) maintained that "while happiness and satisfaction may indeed form part of a subjective well-being construct, it is heuristically useful to measure and analyze them separately" (p. 308).

In the last 25 years, the research activity on happiness has been prolific. On the basis of the World Database of Happiness (Veenhoven, 2002), 3,300 studies are available up to March, 2003. In this field the assessment issue is a central one. The measuring devices for happiness contain at least two kinds of tools.

First, there are multiple-item scales, questionnaires, and inventories of happiness. The following tools are mere examples: the Oxford Happiness Inventory (OHI; Argyle, Martin, & Lu, 1995; Hills & Argyle, 1998), the Depression-Happiness Scale (Lewis, McCollam, & Joseph, 2001; McGreal & Joseph, 1993), and the Memorial University of Newfoundland Scale of Happiness (Kozma & Stones, 1980). These scales, and others, contain multiple items, most frequently from 10 to 30 items.

secondly, a plethora of studies on happiness have used single-item self-rating scales (see e.g., Abdel-Khalek, 2004a), with different options, mainly the Likert scale which offers 5- or 7-choice points. However, the number of choice points can vary from two to 100. Cummins and Gullone (2000) detailed the history - and examined thoroughly the psychometric properties - of the 5-point Likert scales for measuring subjective quality of life. They criticized the Likert format mainly because it is not sufficiently sensitive, and naming its categories detracts from the interval nature of the derived data. The authors gave justifications for 10-point, end-defined scales.

Multiple-item scales often involve items that tap qualities slightly different from happiness in the strict sense of the overall enjoyment of one's life as a whole. One of the reasons to prefer single items is that people can easily see whether they fit this concept or not. Such face validity testing is hardly possible with multiple-item scales (Veenhoven, 2002, section 3.3).

Recently, there has emerged an extensive body of empirical work dealing with validating short psychological tests and scales by reducing them to a single item (Abdel-Khalek, 1998b, 2001). …

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