Indicator scores

National Accounts of Well-being indicators are designed so that they are measured on 0-10 scales, calibrated so that 5 always represents the average score across Europe. This average is calculated from the data for all the respondents in the 22 countries included in these National Accounts. Scores above 5 therefore show that well-being is higher than this average level and scores below 5 that is below the average.

The rest of this page describes in detail how indicator scores were calculated.

Calculating indicator scores

The subcomponent and component indicators within the framework are a set of composites which each combine responses to several questions (apart from two single item subcomponents). Subcomponents and components are then aggregated to create overall personal and social well-being scores. The groupings in which measures are combined derive from an iterative process based on analysis of well-being theory, the substantive content of the question wordings, and the statistical structure of the data.

After deciding on the groupings, indicators were calculated in a three-stage process.

First, scores for the original survey questions were standardised to allow meaningful comparison using standardised z-scores, measured in standard deviation units. Second, questions were aggregated to produce subcomponent and component scores by taking the unweighted mean of the z-scores for the lower level indicators or questions.

Third, the results were transformed on to 0–10 scales, calibrated so that 5 always represents the average score for respondents across Europe (the 22 included countries). In order to achieve this, the transformation was carried out using a curvilinear relationship. This allowed the scaling factor by which the z-scores are multiplied alter across the range of possible scores, and so that responses at the upper end of the distribution are spread out. The curvilinear relationship is described by the formula:

where zi is the z-score that we want to transform and ti is the transformed score.

mi and ci are determined from the theoretical minimum and maximum z-scores for the indicator in question, according to the following formulae. Note that the formulae shown below are correct and revise an error in those printed in Appendix 2 of the National Accounts of Well-being report.

where min is a negative value and max a positive value.

The resulting indicator scores allow for comparison on a single indicator between countries and demographic groups and would allow comparison over time should more data be collected. They also allow meaningful comparison between performance on different components and subcomponents. What they do not do is allow the comparison of performance with absolute targets or thresholds. Whilst 10 is the theoretical maximum score for any of the national accounts indicators, there is no definition of how high you have to score to have high well-being, other than the fact that scoring above 5 means scoring above the European average.

While their design means that the scores presented here are intrinsically relative to the average well-being levels measured in 2006/2007 in the group of 22 European countries included, this sort of relativity is in effect a feature of any national accounting system. In the same way, knowing the level of a country’s GDP in a particular quarter has little meaning, without knowing how its GDP has changed over the preceding period and how it compares to the GDP of other countries. The indicators therefore gain meaning when they are used to compare the experiences of groups located in different social and geographical space, and over different times.

You can download the country scores for each of the National Accounts of Well-being indicators in standardised units.

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