How Many Ways Can We Measure Well-Being?


In this piece for Psychology Today, Dr. Todd Kashdan critiques a new model of assessing well-being designed by positive psychologist Martin Seligman. Although the new model is already being used to evaluate business organizations and schools, research suggests that the new model is not any more accurate than older well-being scales.

“Should new models really be novel or more true to people’s lived experiences? What makes one any more valid than another? Academics continue to hold perspectives and worldviews that far too often removed from the daily lives of people. If anything, new models might benefit from being derived bottom-up from lots of people, not narrowly limited top-down from academics (including us!).

If we are to adopt distinct standards for research and practice, then the creators, researchers, and practitioners must be candid about where a model does and does not have value. Our work suggests it is premature for the PERMA model to be considered a useful measure in research and program evaluation efforts. Unfortunately, people do not wait for the science because of their lust for the new. Our results suggest that in terms of selecting measures to assess well-being, some patience is needed. Classic, existing measures might be as good or better than the new PERMA measures.”

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