Reliability, Validity, and Variability of the Subjective Well-Being Questions in the 2010 American Time Use Survey

Yoonjoo Lee, Sandra L. Hofferth, Sarah M. Flood, Kimberly Fisher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Part of a wider range of investigations to produce generally acceptable standards for measuring affective well-being, time diary surveys have tested several approaches to measuring subjective well-being during diary days. As an alternative to the standard approach of asking a single question about each activity reported in time diary surveys, the 2010 module of the American Time Use Survey asked six emotion questions about three activities. The perception questions captured how happy, meaningful, sad, tired, stressed, or in pain respondents felt on a 7-point scale. To evaluate this approach, our research examined the reliability and validity of the six emotion questions, and assessed their variability across activities. Using principal component analysis, we assessed the associations among items and obtained two activity-level components with Cronbach’s alphas of 0.68 and 0.59 and two respondent-level components with Cronbach’s alphas of 0.74 and 0.65. To test validity, we regressed self-rated health on the underlying components and socio-demographic controls. Both of the respondent level components were significantly associated with better health (odds ratio 1.81, 1.27). Using each of the perceptions individually, we found that happiness, meaningfulness, and lack of fatigue, stress, and pain were related to better health, but none as strongly as the first component. Finally, we examined the coefficients of variation to assess the variability in the well-being measures across activities. Measurement implications and limitations of this study are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSocial Indicators Research
StateAccepted/In press - Feb 28 2015


  • Health
  • Methodology
  • Subjective well-being
  • Time use


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