OBJECTIVE: Investigators within many disciplines are using measures of well-being, but it is not always clear what they are measuring, or which instruments may best meet their objectives. The aims of this review were to: systematically identify well-being instruments, explore the variety of well-being dimensions within instruments and describe how the production of instruments has developed over time.
DESIGN: Systematic searches, thematic analysis and narrative synthesis were undertaken.
DATA SOURCES: MEDLINE, EMBASE, EconLit, PsycINFO, Cochrane Library and CINAHL from 1993 to 2014 complemented by web searches and expert consultations through 2015.
ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA: Instruments were selected for review if they were designed for adults (≥18 years old), generic (ie, non-disease or context specific) and available in an English version.
RESULTS: A total of 99 measures of well-being were included, and 196 dimensions of well-being were identified within them. Dimensions clustered around 6 key thematic domains: mental well-being, social well-being, physical well-being, spiritual well-being, activities and functioning, and personal circumstances. Authors were rarely explicit about how existing theories had influenced the design of their tools; however, the 2 most referenced theories were Diener's model of subjective well-being and the WHO definition of health. The period between 1990 and 1999 produced the greatest number of newly developed well-being instruments (n=27). An illustration of the dimensions identified and the instruments that measure them is provided within a thematic framework of well-being.
CONCLUSIONS: This review provides researchers with an organised toolkit of instruments, dimensions and an accompanying glossary. The striking variability between instruments supports the need to pay close attention to what is being assessed under the umbrella of 'well-being' measurement.