December 13, 2016 Flourishing Lives 1 comment

Measuring Happiness

Measuring Happiness 3

Very often in this sector we are required to ‘measure people’s happiness,’ to quantify the change in them as a result of their engagement with our work. However, while we can feel the development through their changed tone of voice, or their smile or the shift towards more proactive communications, capturing this in numerical terms can be incredibly challenging. The temptation sometimes can be to try and represent this through case studies and anecdotal evidence. However, as impactful as the stories might be they can fail to capture the scope and reach of the work being done. On the other hand, relying solely on numbers can feel clinical and even dismissive of the person’s experience.


Surveys can be a good compromise, providing an overview of an experience which can then be translated into data. For our ‘Measuring Happiness’ workshop Lucien Stanfield (CEO Claremont Project, an older people’s arts and wellbeing centre) introduced us to WEMWBS, Claremont’s preferred survey. The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being scale (WEMWBS) was developed to enable the monitoring of mental wellbeing in the general population and the evaluation of projects. It does so by suggesting a series of positively worded statements that cover both feeling and functioning aspects of mental wellbeing. The person filling it out can indicate how strongly true the statement is by giving it a score of 1-5. The form we looked at is made up of 14 statements, meaning people can score anywhere between 14-70 points. Used at the start of a project or engagement with a service and then again at the end (or several months in depending on the likely length of interaction) WEMWBS can be a powerful tool in measuring the impact of our work.


We then had a presentation by Dr Linda Thomson who introduced us to the UCL Museum Wellbeing Measures Toolkit. The Toolkit includes a set of scales of measurement used to assess levels of wellbeing arising from participation in museum and gallery activities. Although there are other aspects of wellbeing such as physical and social wellbeing, the Toolkit focuses on levels of self-reported changes in mood and emotion as these aspects of wellbeing are the ones that are more likely to change as a result of a short intervention, such as participating in a museum or gallery activity.


As part of the Toolkit an ‘umbrella’ was devised to represent six different moods making up wellbeing. Here is an example of the ‘Generic Positive Wellbeing Umbrella,’ in addition to this there are three other umbrellas: ‘Negative Wellbeing Umbrella – Generic’; ‘Positive Wellbeing Umbrella - Older Adult’ and ‘Positive Wellbeing Umbrella - Younger Adult’. The differentiation between older and younger adults is based on feedback from participants about the words chosen, for example older adults reported preferring the term ‘cheerful,’ whilst younger adult opted for the word ‘friendly.’ The umbrellas also offer space for any additional comments or thoughts which, combined with the scale, can thoroughly cover the range of a person’s experience.


Whilst few measures will ever be able to completely summarise the effect of our work, the methods described to us during the workshop are an excellent place to start and a solid foundation to build upon.


More information about WEMWBS can be found here:


And for information on UCL Museum Wellbeing Measures:



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