September Issue: The Well-Being Index WHO-5

Today’s post provides a short summary of The Well-Being Index WHO-5: hedonistic foundation and practical limitations, an article from out September issue. Written by Amalie Oxholm Kusier, M.A and Anna Paldam Folker, PhD, this work takes a look at well-being matters in everyday decisions.


Well-being matters in decisions about everyday priorities and decisions. It is also relevant for prioritizing health interventions and public policy. During the last twenty years empirical research on well-being has increased significantly. Likewise, a growing conviction that it is possible to measure people’s well-being, and that the results can be used in guiding governmental decisions. The increased use of well-being scales creates a need for an in-depth understanding of what we measure when measuring well-being. In the paper we examine the hedonistic foundation of the Well-being Index WHO-5 – a widely used well-being scale within public health. We explore how two central assumptions of hedonistic theory are reflected in the construction of WHO-5. First, ’the hedonic balance’; the relation between positive and negative emotions. Second, ’the value of emotions’; how to determine the duration and intensity of emotions. We also contrast Hedonism with Life Satisfaction Theory, an alternative foundational, theory of well-being to explicate what it means that WHO-5 is an evaluation of positive affect rather than a cognitive judgement of life satisfaction. We argue that a better grasp of underlying theory provides an important context for the interpretation of the results of well-being scales and their practical limitations.


A headshot of Amalie against a white background. She has short brown hair and wears a blue cardigan over a striped shirt. She is smiling slightly.Amalie Oxholm Kusier, M.A, is research assistant at the National Institute of Public Health at the University of Southern Denmark, and a part of the research group Mental Health. Her research lies in the field between philosophy, public health and psychology, and focuses, among other things, on the philosophical foundation of rating scales of well-being, and the conceptualization of mental health.


A black and white photo of Anna, who has shoulder-length blond (curly) hair. She wears a patterned blouse and smiles, turned three-quarters toward the camera.Anna Paldam Folker, PhD, is associate professor and head of research at the National Institute of Public Health at the University of Southern Denmark. Her research focuses on the philosophical foundation of rating scales of well-being, quality of life and meaning in life. She is interested in linking the fields of public mental health and public health philosophy to conduct cross-disciplinary empirical studies grounded in theory. Twitter: @FolkerAnna

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