Using wellbeing for public policy: Theory, measurement, and recommendations

Alejandro Adler, Martin E. P. Seligman


Indicators of social progress are the primary drivers of public policy.  If existing economic measures of prosperity are complemented with wellbeing metrics that better capture changes in individuals’ quality of life, decision makers will be better informed to assess and design policy.  The science of wellbeing has yielded extensive knowledge and measurement instruments during more than three decades.  We review the existing wellbeing literature and answer three questions: (1) What is wellbeing? (2) How do we measure wellbeing? And, importantly, distinguishing this review from previous ones, (3) How do we use wellbeing metrics to assess and design policy? We suggest that the science of wellbeing is empirically mature enough to complement economic assessments of national progress.  We build on existing work to provide recommendations on metrics and new, specific policies for societal wellbeing.


well-being; public policy; measurement; positive psychology

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