Arthur Stone, PhD Chairs National Academies Panel on Measurement of Subjective Well-Being

The National Academy of Sciences has appointed Stony Brook Distinguished Professor Arthur A. Stone, PhD to chair an advisory panel to evaluate methods for measuring subjective well-being for potential use in official government surveys that inform social and economic policy. The project is attracting the attention of high-level officials and the national press. It is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute on Aging, and the U.K. Economic and Social Research Council.

The panel has met twice — in December 2011 and March 2012 — to review the current state of research and to discuss the role that measures of subjective well-being might play in key national statistics and indicators. The panel will consider whether research has advanced to a point that warrants the federal government collecting information about the population’s subjective well being — both positive and negative — and associating it with changing conditions over time. “We will meet at least five times,” Dr. Stone said, “and issue a position paper which will be published as a report from the National Academies.” Among those attending the open portions of the meetings have been the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and the Chief Statistician of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

Although the panel’s primary focus is on the inclusion of self-reported well-being in U.S. government surveys, it will also consider similar surveys in the United Kingdom and European Union, to facilitate cross-national comparisons. On April 2, Dr. Stone was invited to a United Nations conference on Happiness and Well-being. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon introduced the program by noting that the United Kingdom, the European Union, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and others are developing measures of well-being. “Gross National Product has long been the yardstick by which economies and politicians have been measured,” the Secretary-General said, “Yet it fails to take into account the social and environmental costs of so-called progress. We need a new economic paradigm...”

Dr. Stone, who is a specialist in behavioral medicine and in the measurement of patient experience, is a Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at Stony Brook University. He is Vice Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science and Director of the Applied Behavioral Medicine Research Institute.