Satisfaction with life and happiness

Satisfaction with life and happiness

LASA filenames:
LASA110 (life)
LASAD094 (happiness)

Contact: Dorly Deeg


Life satisfaction is an important aspect of well-being and quality of life, and thus serves as an outcome in many studies of (changes in) functioning (Bowling et al 1993, Mroczek & Spiro 2005). Life satisfaction is conceptualised as the cognitive aspect of well-being, as opposed to its emotional aspect (Diener et al 1999). For the emotional aspect it is referred to the positive affect dimension of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale (LASA025).

Measurement instruments in LASA
Although longer questionnaires exist, for reasons of parsimony, in LASA life satisfaction is operationally defined using two questions (Van Zonneveld 1961). One question asks about current life, the other about life as a whole. Each question has five response categories, ranging from ‘very dissatisfied’ to ‘very satisfied’.

The sum score is calculated by summing both items, after declaring the ‘no answer’ categories missing. Range: 2 (low) – 10 (high).

In wave D (LASAD094), an item regarding happiness is included. The respondents hereby has to draw an X on a line, where the start of the line indicates being very unhappy and the end of the line indicates being very happy (see figure 1.).


Figure 1. The happiness-line as presented to the respondent. The cross represents a sample response.

satis1-4† in: LASAB110 / LASAC110 / LASAD110 / LASAE110 / LAS2B110 / LASAF110 / LASAG110 / LASAH110 / LAS3B110 / LASAI110 / LASAJ110 / LASAK110 (self-administered questionnaire: in Dutch);
LASAD094 (happiness-line in wave D, main interview: in Dutch)
†: in B, C, D, E, 2B, F, G, 3B and K, only satis1-2 were asked.

Variable information
† in: LASAB110 / LASAC110 / LASAD110 / LASAE110 / LAS2B110 / LASAF110 / LASAG110 / LASAH110 / LAS3B110 / LASAI110 / LASAJ110 / LASAK110 (K not available yet)
†: in B, C, D, E, 2B, F, G, 3B and K, only satis1-2.

happy in: LASAD094

Availability of information per wave


Life satisfaction:
total life and up to now
(satis1, satis2 in LASA110)
Life satisfaction: mark and
compared to year ago
(satis3, satis4 in LASA110)

¹ More information about the LASA data collection waves is available here.

* 2B=baseline second cohort;
3B=baseline third cohort;
MB=migrants: baseline first cohort;
K=not available yet

Sa=data collected in self-administered questionnaire;
Ma=data collected in main interview

Previous use in LASA

Life satisfaction has been used in several studies of changes in health, quality of life and their effect on well-being, often in combination with positive affect to capture both the cognitive and the emotional aspect of well-being (Deeg 2007, Jonker et al 2008, 2009). Also recently it has been used as one of indicators in the study of prevalence and extent of successful ageing. Within LASA, the item on happiness is yet to be used.


  1. Boumans, J., Deeg, D.J.H. (2011). Changes in the quality of life of older people living at home: does type of care play a role? Tijdschrift voor Gerontologie en Geriatrie, 42, 170-183.
  2. Bowling A, Farquhar M, Grundy W, Formby J. Changes in life satisfaction over a two and a half year period among very elderly people living in London. Social Science and Medicine 36; 1993: 641-655.
  3. Deeg DJH. Health and quality of life. In: Mollenkopf H & Walker A (eds), Quality of Life in Old Age – International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives.Heidelberg: Springer Verlag, 2007: 195-213.Jonker A, Comijs HC, Knipscheer CPM, Deeg DJH. Persistent decline in functioning and change in well-being in older persons. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research 2008; 20: 461-468.
  4. Diener E, Suh EM, Lucas RE, Smith HL. Subjective well-being: three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin 125; 1999: 276-302.
  5. Jonker AA, Comijs HC, Knipscheer KCPM, Deeg DJH. The role of coping resources on change in well-being during persistent health decline. J Aging Health 2009; 21(8): 1063-1082.
  6. Kok, A., Aartsen, M.J., Deeg, D.J.H., Huisman, M. (2017). Capturing the Diversity of Successful Aging: An Operational Definition Based on 16-Year Trajectories of Functioning. The Gerontologist, 57, 2, 240-251.
  7. Kok, A., Aartsen, M.J., Deeg, D.J.H., Huisman, M. (2016). Socioeconomic inequalities in a 16-year longitudinal measurement of successful ageing. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 70, 1106-1113.
  8. Mroczek DK, Spiro A III. Change in life satisfaction during adulthood: Findings from the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 88; 2005: 189-202.
  9. Van Zelst, W.H., De Beurs, E., Beekman, A.T.F., Van Dyck, R., Deeg, D.J.H. (2006). Well-being, physical functioning, and use of health services in the elderly with PTSD and subthreshold PTSD. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 21, 180-188.
  10. Van Zonneveld RJ van. The health of the aged. Assen: Van Gorcum, 1961.

In this and other waves in LASA094 respondents were also asked to draw a ‘life-line’. For more information on this   subject, see Subjective life expectancy and subjective age.