Measuring Societal Well-Being: The Value of Diary Data
Kimberly Fisher
Centre for Time Use Research, University of Oxford, Department of Sociology, Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

The well-being of individuals in part is shaped by and in part is reflected by people's daily activity patterns. Nonetheless, collecting a representative picture of any given individual's regular routines requires qualitative techniques not suited to large-scale application. Time diaries, which collect daily activity patterns across a society on any given day, reveal the range of routines across large populations. Diary surveys offer two opportunities to measure societal well-being. First, diaries facilitate monitoring of three dimensions of routines associated with quality of life: (1) healthy behaviours (exercise; sleep patterns; how long people push themselves before taking a break); (2) energy and resource use (proportion of travel undertaken by active means; time outside; time inside alone); and (3) quality of leisure (proportion not overlain by other activity domains; length and fragmentation of episodes; whether people wind down before sleeping). Monitoring of these dimensions has value in its own right, but also facilitates comparison between regions and also monitoring of trends in one region across time. When diary surveys collect affect (or emotion) data at the same time as collecting activity information, the diaries reveal which patterns of behaviour make people feel better or worse. This information is particularly useful when assessing whether a policy change leaves people feeling better or worse off overall in addition to whether the policy achieved its specific objective. Thus, diaries offer a second measure of national well-being through revealing changes in total national happiness. This presentation uses the Multinational Time Use Study, a cross-time, cross-national harmonised time use database, to illustrate uses of diary data for comparative well-being research.

Keywords: Time diary; Well-being; Daily activities

Biography: Kimberly Fisher, the Secretary of the International Association for Time Use Research, manages the Multinational Time Use Study (among other data harmonisation projects), maintains the web content of the IATUR Community Action pages and the Centre for Time Use Research, and co-ordinates IATUR information dissemination activities.