Deutsch: Subjektives Wohlbefinden / Español: Bienestar subjetivo / Português: Bem-estar subjetivo / Français: Bien-être subjectif / Italiano: Benessere soggettivo

Subjective well-being is a term used in psychology to describe how individuals experience the quality of their lives. It encompasses emotional reactions and cognitive judgments. It includes both emotional aspects, such as happiness and sadness, and cognitive evaluations, such as satisfaction with life. This concept is central to positive psychology, a field that focuses on what makes life most worth living.


Subjective well-being is considered a highly personal and individual assessment of one's own life. It involves a combination of positive affect (experiencing pleasant emotions and moods) and the absence of negative affect, along with a cognitive judgment of one’s life satisfaction. This means that subjective well-being is not solely about happiness but includes how individuals evaluate their lives in terms of their personal goals, standards, and expectations.

The measurement of subjective well-being typically involves self-report surveys where individuals rate their levels of life satisfaction, positive affect, and negative affect. These measures provide insights into how people perceive their well-being and quality of life from their own perspectives.

Application Areas

Subjective well-being is a significant focus within several areas of psychology and related fields:

  • Positive psychology: Focuses on enhancing subjective well-being through the study of happiness, strengths, virtues, and factors that contribute to a fulfilling life.
  • Health psychology: Explores the relationship between mental well-being and physical health, including how positive emotions and life satisfaction can affect health outcomes.
  • Occupational psychology: Investigates the impact of work on an individual’s well-being and how job satisfaction contributes to overall subjective well-being.
  • Social psychology: Examines how relationships and social interactions influence an individual's sense of well-being.

Well-Known Examples

  • The World Happiness Report: An annual survey that ranks countries based on their citizens' self-reported well-being, considering factors like economic wealth, social support, freedom, and corruption.
  • Gross National Happiness: Bhutan is known for measuring its progress not only through Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but also through the happiness and well-being of its population.

Treatment and Risks

While subjective well-being contributes to a range of positive outcomes in life, including better health, longevity, and social relationships, it also poses challenges. For instance, an excessive focus on personal happiness can lead to neglecting important but less pleasant aspects of life, such as facing difficulties or dealing with negative emotions constructively. Moreover, societal and cultural factors can influence individuals’ perceptions of their well-being, potentially leading to comparisons and dissatisfaction.

Similar Terms or Synonyms

  • Happiness
  • Life satisfaction
  • Psychological well-being


Subjective well-being is a comprehensive term in psychology that reflects individuals' emotional responses and cognitive evaluations of their lives, including aspects of happiness, life satisfaction, and the presence or absence of negative emotions. It is a central concept in fields such as positive psychology, where the focus is on understanding and enhancing the factors that contribute to a fulfilling and meaningful life. Despite its benefits, the pursuit of subjective well-being should be balanced with an acknowledgment of life's complexities and challenges.


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