The minimum features necessary for a short, reliable, and valid survey index of experienced well-being are unknown, though the target length of a survey measure being tested in their study is 3–5 minutes.
This kind of evaluation is central to determining how broadly subjective measures can potentially be integrated into policy analyses and national statistics. Adding a standardized – employment, etc.) is necessary for understanding covariates of (and developing statistics on) population well-being. However, such an integrated strategy will only be feasible if the modules are minimally burdensome and retain validity across contexts and if the short-version questionnaires are sufficiently robust in the information they produce.
Two additional sets of analyses that use ATUS or ATUS-like data are worth noting because they provide an indication of potential uses of data from the SWB module. In a recent study, Krueger and Stone (2008) measured pain during specific random periods of time, which allowed them to study how reported (recalled) levels of pain affected activities of daily living in particular segments of the sample population. This approach is novel relative to the global assessment methodologies typically used in population studies. The authors used data from the Princeton Affect and Time Survey (PATS), which employs a similar data collection methodology and the same general procedures as ATUS: “yesterday” is reconstructed through computer-assisted telephone interviews, and then three episodes from those identified are randomly drawn and information is collected about affect and pain.
Similar studies could be done even more robustly using ATUS, as PATS allowed only 3,982 respondents, while there were more than 12,000 in the 2010 ATUS sample. In addition, the PATS sample was likely less representative than the ATUS sample. Even with these limitations in PATS (relative to ATUS), the finding from this study were clear and robust: one was that those with lower income or less education reported higher average pain than did those with higher income or more education, and another was that average pain ratings reached a plateau between the ages of about 45 years and 75 years. The results of this study suggest even greater potential for the value of ATUS for pain studies—an area where there is an increasing demand for research.
Stone and Deaton have recently begun work, using the 2010 SWB module data, to examine the hypothesis that people with different employment status (working/nonworking) and occupations (using standard labor categories) experience different levels of pain throughout the day—and not just on the job.11 Possible explanations for variation in reported pain levels include the differing physical demands of different occupations; these pain-occupation relationships may vary by age or gender. The researchers first examined pain, rated on a scale from 0 (did not feel any pain) to 6 (severe pain), for a broad employment status variable. They found those who were employed had less pain than those who were unemployed and were looking for work or who
experienced well-being such as the U-index, which measures the proportion of time individuals spend in an “unpleasant,” “undesirable,” or “unhappy” state (see Krueger and Stone, 2008). A focus on the U-index would be justified if policy makers want to pay attention to the incidence of negative feelings and their health and other consequences.
11This work is being done by Arthur Stone (Stony Brook University) and Angus Deaton (Princeton University).