This chapter reviews the various definitions of well-being, and their advantages and disadvantages. Well-being is defined as an overall evaluation that an individual makes of his or her life in all its important aspects, and is often called “subjective well-being.” This definition is contrasted with objective evaluations, which require judgments that are independent of an individual’s values and desires. The definition of well-being advanced in this book is based on an individual’s own interests, needs, preferences, and desires, and is therefore similar to the concept of “utility” in economics. The well-being indicators advocated here include both people’s judgments of their lives and their emotions and moods. The differences in preference realization reflected in economic indicators and subjective reports of well-being are described, and the advantages and disadvantages of each are reviewed.
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