Measuring Flourishing

The Program on Integrative Knowledge and Human Flourishing has developed a measurement approach to human flourishing, based around five central domains: happiness and life satisfaction, mental and physical health, meaning and purpose, character and virtue, and close social relationships. Each of these is nearly universally desired, and each constitutes an end in and of itself. The measure and its conceptual motivation were put forward in a 2017 paper, On the Promotion of Human Flourishing, by Professor VanderWeele, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The Program aims to encourage the measurement and tracking of these various aspects of flourishing in workplace, medical, educational, and governmental settings, and to better understand the determinants of flourishing, and policies to promote it. Together with the SHINE Program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the measure has been used in collaboration with Levi Strauss & Co., Allegacy Credit Union, Owens Corning, several major airlines, and also a new multi-year research collaboration with Aetna, to expand and develop the measure yet further, and to track and promote well-being among employees.

The Program’s flourishing measure is copyrighted under a Creative Commons License. However, it can be used without permission for non-commercial purposes if proper citation is given. The reference for the paper in which the measure was presented is:

VanderWeele, T.J. (2017). On the promotion of human flourishing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A., 31:8148-8156.

The “Flourish” measure consists of two questions or items from each of five domains: happiness and life satisfaction, mental and physical health, meaning and purpose, character and virtue, and close social relationships. The questions were selected primarily from among existing questions that had received some empirical validation and that are widely used in the well-being literature. Each of the questions is assessed on a scale of 0 – 10. The “Flourish” measure is obtained by summing the scores from each of the ten questions and results a total score from of 0 – 100. The “Secure Flourish” measure also includes two additional questions on financial and material stability which may indicate the capacity to sustain flourishing into the future across the five principal domains; the “Secure Flourish” measure is obtained by summing the scores from the twelve questions in all six domains and results in a score from 0 – 120.

Flourishing Questions

Domain 1: Happiness and Life Satisfaction.
1. Overall, how satisfied are you with life as a whole these days?
0=Not Satisfied at All, 10=Completely Satisfied

2. In general, how happy or unhappy do you usually feel?
0=Extremely Unhappy, 10=Extremely Happy

Domain 2: Mental and Physical Health.
3. In general, how would you rate your physical health?
0=Poor, 10=Excellent

4. How would you rate your overall mental health?
0=Poor, 10=Excellent

Domain 3: Meaning and Purpose.
5. Overall, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?
0=Not at All Worthwhile, 10=Completely Worthwhile

6. I understand my purpose in life.
0=Strongly Disagree, 10=Strongly Agree

Domain 4: Character and Virtue.
7. I always act to promote good in all circumstances, even in difficult and challenging situations.
0=Not True of Me, 10=Completely True of Me

8. I am always able to give up some happiness now for greater happiness later.
0=Not True of Me, 10=Completely True of Me

Domain 5: Close Social Relationships.
9. I am content with my friendships and relationships.
0=Strongly Disagree, 10=Strongly Agree

10. My relationships are as satisfying as I would want them to be.
0=Strongly Disagree, 10=Strongly Agree

Domain 6: Financial and Material Stability.
11. How often do you worry about being able to meet normal monthly living expenses?
0=Worry All of the Time, 10=Do Not Ever Worry

12. How often do you worry about safety, food, or housing?
0=Worry All of the Time, 10=Do Not Ever Worry

For further information on the psychometric properties of the measures, see:
Węziak-Białowolska, D., McNeely, E., and VanderWeele, T.J. (2018). Flourish index and secure flourish index – development and validation. Available at SSRN: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3145336.

Creative Commons License:
Creative Commons License
On the promotion of human flourishing: by Tyler J. VanderWeele is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://www.pnas.org/content/114/31/8148.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.pnas.org/content/114/31/8148.