Survey Measurement of Psychological Well-Being

Springer, Kristen W., and Robert Hauser
Working paper no. 2002-09


This study assesses the measurement properties of Ryff’s scale of Psychological Well-Being (PWB)—a widely-used scale designed to measure six dimensions of PWB. Analyses of self-administered PWB data from three major surveys—Midlife in the United States (MIDUS), National Survey of Families and Households II (NSFH II), and the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS) yielded very high overlap among subscales. We eliminated several methodological sources of confounding, including question wording, question order, and negative item wording. We also analyzed WLS telephone survey data and found smaller subscale correlations. Self-administered instruments may provide more valid psychological measurements than telephone surveys, and survey mode may affect the structure of factor models. Thus, we believe that mode effects may explain the consistent differences between findings from telephone administration and self-administration of PWB scales. That is, Ryff’s scale does not measure six distinct dimensions of PWB, and researchers should use it with caution.