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Measuring well-being in the 
European statistical system 
Eurostat 
Jean-Louis Mercy 
Eurostat
The European statistical system 
• 28 national offices (+EFTA, CH, CC) 
• Eurostat 
• In our context: ex-ante output harmonisation 
• Agreement on the methods, concepts, variables 
etc. before launching the surveys 
• Survey and data processing by MS 
• We receive a set of microdata according to 
specifications
The well-known context 
• GDP and beyond (Commission communication) 
• The SSF recommendations 
• The ESS sponsorship on measuring progress 
• The Eurostat expert group on quality of life 
indicator
Sofia memorandum, November 2010 
The DGINS 
• recognised the importance of high quality data about people’s quality of life, 
based on an approach which encompasses the economic, social and 
environmental dimensions covering objective and subjective conditions; 
• recognised that the timeliness, comparability and coverage of various 
dimensions of quality of life statistics need to be improved and that, for 
comparison purposes at European level, the European survey on income and 
living conditions (EU-SILC) should be developed as a core instrument for 
measuring quality of life dimensions not already covered by other statistical 
sources; 
• recognised that several other data sources (e.g. Labour Force Survey, 
Household Budget Survey, Time Use Survey) are available at ESS level and 
committed itself to make better use of their complementarities with EU-SILC in 
order to provide a comprehensive system to measure different dimensions of 
quality of life; the increasing use of administrative data was also recognised in 
this regard.
EU-SILC 
• Survey on income and living conditions, 2004, 31 
countries, 250 000 HHs, 500 000 individuals, 4 
year panel. 
• Income (hhs, ind.), deprivation, work patterns, 
housing & living place, financial stress,… (140 
variables) 
• Yearly ad hoc modules (about social part., 
housing, debt, access, etc.) (20 variables)
Interest of SILC in the quality of life agenda 
• Strongly harmonised survey (ex-ante output 
harmonisation) – legal basis 
• 10 years of implementation, constant progress 
• Large sample, allowing disaggregation 
• Covers already several important QoL dimensions 
• Collects data at individual level 
• Has a panel dimension 
• Covers usually all the HH members 
• Special module on well-being in 2013
Caveats 
• Harmonisation and subjective questions 
• Questionnaire, wording, order, translation (reference 
questionnaire translated) 
• Proxy answers (not allowed) 
• Scales 
• Focus on poverty 
• Also, limited space
The ESS framework for QoL
Objective information Subjective information 
Material living 
conditions 
Satisfaction with financial situation 
Satisfaction with accommodation 
Productive or main 
activity 
Job satisfaction 
Health 
Being very nervous 
Feeling down in the dumps 
Feeling calm and peaceful 
Feeling downhearted or depressed 
Being happy 
Education 
Leisure and social 
interactions 
Satisfaction with personal relationship 
Anyone to discuss personal matters 
Anyone to get help from 
Satisfaction with time use 
Satisfaction with commuting time 
Economic and 
physical safety 
Physical security 
Governance and basic 
rights 
Trust in the political system 
Trust in the legal system 
Trust in the police 
Trust in others 
Natural and living 
environment 
Satisfaction with recreational /green 
Satisfaction with living environment 
Overall experience of 
life 
Life satisfaction 
Meaning of life 
(Emotions under "health")
Next steps 
• Ad hoc module: 
• Reception (end 2014) and careful analysis of the data 
• Quality reports 
• Dissemination (Eurobase, publications, dissemination to 
the researchers through the User Data Base at the latest 
August 2015) 
• SILC modernisation 
• Yearly question(s): at least life satisfaction 
• Module on QoL every 6 years – all individuals should be 
covered
Source: Eurostat, SILC 2013 
R²=.01
Source: Eurostat, SILC 2013
Source: Eurostat, SILC 2013
Source: Eurostat, SILC 2013
Source: Eurostat, SILC 2013
Correlations 
LifeSat 
Meaning 
FinSat 
JobSat 
AccomSat 
RelSat 
TimeSat 
GreenSat 
EnvirSat 
CommutSat 
TrustPolitic 
TrustLegal 
TrustPolice 
TrustOthers 
Nervous 
Down 
Calm 
Depressed 
Happy 
Personal 
Help 
PhysSec 
LifeSat 1,0 0,6 0,6 0,5 0,5 0,5 0,4 0,3 0,4 0,2 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,4 -0,4 0,4 -0,5 -0,2 -0,2 -0,2 
Meaning 0,6 1,0 0,4 0,4 0,4 0,5 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,4 -0,3 0,3 -0,4 -0,2 -0,2 -0,1 
FinSat 0,6 0,4 1,0 0,4 0,5 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,4 0,2 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,3 -0,3 0,3 -0,4 -0,1 -0,2 -0,1 
JobSat 0,5 0,4 0,4 1,0 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,3 -0,2 0,3 -0,3 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 
AccomSat 0,5 0,4 0,5 0,3 1,0 0,4 0,3 0,4 0,4 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 -0,2 0,2 -0,3 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 
RelSat 0,5 0,5 0,3 0,3 0,4 1,0 0,4 0,4 0,4 0,2 0,1 0,2 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,3 -0,3 0,3 -0,4 -0,2 -0,2 -0,1 
TimeSat 0,4 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,4 1,0 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 -0,3 0,2 -0,3 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 
GreenSat 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,2 0,4 0,4 0,3 1,0 0,6 0,2 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,2 -0,2 0,2 -0,2 -0,1 -0,1 -0,2 
EnvirSat 0,4 0,3 0,4 0,2 0,4 0,4 0,3 0,6 1,0 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,2 -0,2 0,2 -0,2 -0,1 -0,1 -0,2 
CommutSat 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,2 1,0 0,1 0,1 0,1 0,1 0,1 0,1 -0,1 0,1 -0,1 0,0 -0,1 -0,1 
TrustPolitic 0,3 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,1 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,1 1,0 0,7 0,5 0,3 0,2 0,2 -0,2 0,1 -0,2 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 
TrustLegal 0,3 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,1 0,7 1,0 0,6 0,3 0,2 0,2 -0,2 0,2 -0,2 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 
TrustPolice 0,3 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,3 0,3 0,1 0,5 0,6 1,0 0,3 0,2 0,2 -0,2 0,1 -0,2 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 
TrustOthers 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,1 0,3 0,3 0,3 1,0 0,2 0,2 -0,2 0,2 -0,2 -0,1 -0,2 -0,2 
Nervous 0,3 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,1 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 1,0 0,6 -0,5 0,5 -0,4 -0,1 -0,1 -0,2 
Down 0,4 0,4 0,3 0,3 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,1 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,6 1,0 -0,5 0,7 -0,5 -0,2 -0,2 -0,2 
Calm -0,4 -0,3 -0,3 -0,2 -0,2 -0,3 -0,3 -0,2 -0,2 -0,1 -0,2 -0,2 -0,2 -0,2 -0,5 -0,5 1,0 -0,5 0,5 0,1 0,1 0,2 
Depressed 0,4 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,1 0,1 0,2 0,1 0,2 0,5 0,7 -0,5 1,0 -0,5 -0,2 -0,2 -0,2 
Happy -0,5 -0,4 -0,4 -0,3 -0,3 -0,4 -0,3 -0,2 -0,2 -0,1 -0,2 -0,2 -0,2 -0,2 -0,4 -0,5 0,5 -0,5 1,0 0,2 0,2 0,2 
Personal -0,2 -0,2 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,2 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 0,0 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,2 0,1 -0,2 0,2 1,0 0,4 0,1 
Help -0,2 -0,2 -0,2 -0,1 -0,1 -0,2 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,2 -0,1 -0,2 0,1 -0,2 0,2 0,4 1,0 0,1 
PhysSec -0,2 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,2 -0,2 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,2 -0,2 -0,2 0,2 -0,2 0,2 0,1 0,1 1,0 
Satisfaction 
Trust inst. 
Emotions 
Support 
Source: Eurostat, SILC 2013
Satisfaction items (principal components analysis) 
Source: Eurostat, SILC 2013
Emotions items (principal components analysis) 
Component Matrix 
Down 0,833 
Depressed 0,823 
Nervous 0,755 
Happy -0,74 
Calm -0,76 
Source: Eurostat, SILC 2013
Correlation: 0.63
In the couples
Conclusion 
• QoL and WB data agenda is reinforced in the ESS 
• First large scale international official statistics 
• Good analytical potential 
• Methodological issues to address gradually 
• Continuation of the work foreseen in SILC 
• Other surveys to contribute (TUS, LFS, etc.)

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HLEG thematic workshop on "Multidimensional Subjective Well-being", Jean-Louis Mercy

  • 1. Measuring well-being in the European statistical system Eurostat Jean-Louis Mercy Eurostat
  • 2. The European statistical system • 28 national offices (+EFTA, CH, CC) • Eurostat • In our context: ex-ante output harmonisation • Agreement on the methods, concepts, variables etc. before launching the surveys • Survey and data processing by MS • We receive a set of microdata according to specifications
  • 3. The well-known context • GDP and beyond (Commission communication) • The SSF recommendations • The ESS sponsorship on measuring progress • The Eurostat expert group on quality of life indicator
  • 4. Sofia memorandum, November 2010 The DGINS • recognised the importance of high quality data about people’s quality of life, based on an approach which encompasses the economic, social and environmental dimensions covering objective and subjective conditions; • recognised that the timeliness, comparability and coverage of various dimensions of quality of life statistics need to be improved and that, for comparison purposes at European level, the European survey on income and living conditions (EU-SILC) should be developed as a core instrument for measuring quality of life dimensions not already covered by other statistical sources; • recognised that several other data sources (e.g. Labour Force Survey, Household Budget Survey, Time Use Survey) are available at ESS level and committed itself to make better use of their complementarities with EU-SILC in order to provide a comprehensive system to measure different dimensions of quality of life; the increasing use of administrative data was also recognised in this regard.
  • 5. EU-SILC • Survey on income and living conditions, 2004, 31 countries, 250 000 HHs, 500 000 individuals, 4 year panel. • Income (hhs, ind.), deprivation, work patterns, housing & living place, financial stress,… (140 variables) • Yearly ad hoc modules (about social part., housing, debt, access, etc.) (20 variables)
  • 6. Interest of SILC in the quality of life agenda • Strongly harmonised survey (ex-ante output harmonisation) – legal basis • 10 years of implementation, constant progress • Large sample, allowing disaggregation • Covers already several important QoL dimensions • Collects data at individual level • Has a panel dimension • Covers usually all the HH members • Special module on well-being in 2013
  • 7. Caveats • Harmonisation and subjective questions • Questionnaire, wording, order, translation (reference questionnaire translated) • Proxy answers (not allowed) • Scales • Focus on poverty • Also, limited space
  • 9. Objective information Subjective information Material living conditions Satisfaction with financial situation Satisfaction with accommodation Productive or main activity Job satisfaction Health Being very nervous Feeling down in the dumps Feeling calm and peaceful Feeling downhearted or depressed Being happy Education Leisure and social interactions Satisfaction with personal relationship Anyone to discuss personal matters Anyone to get help from Satisfaction with time use Satisfaction with commuting time Economic and physical safety Physical security Governance and basic rights Trust in the political system Trust in the legal system Trust in the police Trust in others Natural and living environment Satisfaction with recreational /green Satisfaction with living environment Overall experience of life Life satisfaction Meaning of life (Emotions under "health")
  • 10. Next steps • Ad hoc module: • Reception (end 2014) and careful analysis of the data • Quality reports • Dissemination (Eurobase, publications, dissemination to the researchers through the User Data Base at the latest August 2015) • SILC modernisation • Yearly question(s): at least life satisfaction • Module on QoL every 6 years – all individuals should be covered
  • 11. Source: Eurostat, SILC 2013 R²=.01
  • 13.
  • 17. Correlations LifeSat Meaning FinSat JobSat AccomSat RelSat TimeSat GreenSat EnvirSat CommutSat TrustPolitic TrustLegal TrustPolice TrustOthers Nervous Down Calm Depressed Happy Personal Help PhysSec LifeSat 1,0 0,6 0,6 0,5 0,5 0,5 0,4 0,3 0,4 0,2 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,4 -0,4 0,4 -0,5 -0,2 -0,2 -0,2 Meaning 0,6 1,0 0,4 0,4 0,4 0,5 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,4 -0,3 0,3 -0,4 -0,2 -0,2 -0,1 FinSat 0,6 0,4 1,0 0,4 0,5 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,4 0,2 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,3 -0,3 0,3 -0,4 -0,1 -0,2 -0,1 JobSat 0,5 0,4 0,4 1,0 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,3 -0,2 0,3 -0,3 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 AccomSat 0,5 0,4 0,5 0,3 1,0 0,4 0,3 0,4 0,4 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 -0,2 0,2 -0,3 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 RelSat 0,5 0,5 0,3 0,3 0,4 1,0 0,4 0,4 0,4 0,2 0,1 0,2 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,3 -0,3 0,3 -0,4 -0,2 -0,2 -0,1 TimeSat 0,4 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,4 1,0 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 -0,3 0,2 -0,3 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 GreenSat 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,2 0,4 0,4 0,3 1,0 0,6 0,2 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,2 -0,2 0,2 -0,2 -0,1 -0,1 -0,2 EnvirSat 0,4 0,3 0,4 0,2 0,4 0,4 0,3 0,6 1,0 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,2 -0,2 0,2 -0,2 -0,1 -0,1 -0,2 CommutSat 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,2 1,0 0,1 0,1 0,1 0,1 0,1 0,1 -0,1 0,1 -0,1 0,0 -0,1 -0,1 TrustPolitic 0,3 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,1 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,1 1,0 0,7 0,5 0,3 0,2 0,2 -0,2 0,1 -0,2 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 TrustLegal 0,3 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,1 0,7 1,0 0,6 0,3 0,2 0,2 -0,2 0,2 -0,2 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 TrustPolice 0,3 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,3 0,3 0,1 0,5 0,6 1,0 0,3 0,2 0,2 -0,2 0,1 -0,2 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 TrustOthers 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,1 0,3 0,3 0,3 1,0 0,2 0,2 -0,2 0,2 -0,2 -0,1 -0,2 -0,2 Nervous 0,3 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,1 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 1,0 0,6 -0,5 0,5 -0,4 -0,1 -0,1 -0,2 Down 0,4 0,4 0,3 0,3 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,1 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,6 1,0 -0,5 0,7 -0,5 -0,2 -0,2 -0,2 Calm -0,4 -0,3 -0,3 -0,2 -0,2 -0,3 -0,3 -0,2 -0,2 -0,1 -0,2 -0,2 -0,2 -0,2 -0,5 -0,5 1,0 -0,5 0,5 0,1 0,1 0,2 Depressed 0,4 0,3 0,3 0,3 0,2 0,3 0,2 0,2 0,2 0,1 0,1 0,2 0,1 0,2 0,5 0,7 -0,5 1,0 -0,5 -0,2 -0,2 -0,2 Happy -0,5 -0,4 -0,4 -0,3 -0,3 -0,4 -0,3 -0,2 -0,2 -0,1 -0,2 -0,2 -0,2 -0,2 -0,4 -0,5 0,5 -0,5 1,0 0,2 0,2 0,2 Personal -0,2 -0,2 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,2 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 0,0 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,2 0,1 -0,2 0,2 1,0 0,4 0,1 Help -0,2 -0,2 -0,2 -0,1 -0,1 -0,2 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,2 -0,1 -0,2 0,1 -0,2 0,2 0,4 1,0 0,1 PhysSec -0,2 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,2 -0,2 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,1 -0,2 -0,2 -0,2 0,2 -0,2 0,2 0,1 0,1 1,0 Satisfaction Trust inst. Emotions Support Source: Eurostat, SILC 2013
  • 18. Satisfaction items (principal components analysis) Source: Eurostat, SILC 2013
  • 19. Emotions items (principal components analysis) Component Matrix Down 0,833 Depressed 0,823 Nervous 0,755 Happy -0,74 Calm -0,76 Source: Eurostat, SILC 2013
  • 21.
  • 23. Conclusion • QoL and WB data agenda is reinforced in the ESS • First large scale international official statistics • Good analytical potential • Methodological issues to address gradually • Continuation of the work foreseen in SILC • Other surveys to contribute (TUS, LFS, etc.)