The Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS)

Have you already reached the goals you consider to be important? The Satisfaction With Life Scale allows you to discover whether or not you feel happy and fulfilled. It takes into account all you've accomplished up until this point in your life. In this article, we'll tell you all about it.
The Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS)
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

The Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS) continues to be the most popular instrument for measuring happiness levels. Psychologists Ed Diener, Robert A. Emmons, Randy J. Larsen, and Sharon Griffin created it in the 80s. Experts single it out as one of the best ways to get reliable information on peoples’ levels of satisfaction with their lives. They have successfully used it on adults, teenagers, and people of diverse social classes. In addition, experts can use it in any country and culture.

Confucius said that wherever people are happy, there are no revolutions. The truth is that, when you feel satisfied with what you have and what you are, you don’t feel the need to go looking for anything else. Nevertheless, as you probably know, such a state isn’t easy to achieve. As such, human beings always feel obligated to start big or small revolutions. These allow us to seek out that desired state of well-being.

Having access to scales such as this test allows you, among other things, to know what’s missing in society. It also helps you understand what areas of your life need more exploration, work, or maturing. As such, you might say that satisfaction is more than a state. It’s a process that you’re building upon continuously. As such, having access to this resource is very helpful. That goes for both the realm of psychological intervention as well as anything related to social research.

Let’s see what this test is all about.

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing.”


Characteristics, application, and effectiveness

How can we define satisfaction with life? It’s not an easy concept to put into words. Some people might rush to say that it’s the state you reach when you have a good job and money in the bank. Others claim that it’s being with someone you love and who loves you. It seems that nothing is as subjective, specific, and unique as a person’s personal happiness.

Every mind is a unique world and every world is a micro-universe inhabited by needs, priorities, tastes, and anxieties. Frederic Bartlett was an experimental psychologist at the University of Cambridge. He said that your life is made up of thoughts. Each person, he argued, could be living in heaven or hell even if they were as rich as the richest person in the world.

That’s why Ed Diener, Robert A. Emmons, Randy J. Larsen, and Sharon Griffin knew that they had to ask a series of very general questions in their test. These questions would have to go far beyond material and even emotional aspects of life. That’s why the satisfaction with life scale is based on cognitive judgments. In other words, it judges each individual’s particular assessment of what they’ve achieved or failed to achieve.

What the Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS) consists of

This test consists of 5 items (questions) that the person must answer. It’s in the form of a Likert scale. That is, there are five types of answers. These are: “strongly disagree”, “disagree”, “neutral”, “agree”, and “strongly agree”. As you can see, the Satisfaction With Life Scale is very short. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to complete.

In a way, the first time experts were confronted by the SWLS questions in 1985 in the Journal of Personality Assessment, they were forced to reflect on very profound aspects of their lives. For this test, sincerity is of the utmost importance. Only then will you be able to clearly see where you are with your happiness to keep working on your well-being. Only then will you be able to keep searching for that happiness that comes precisely from satisfaction with yourself and your achievements.

A person taking the satisfaction with life scale.

The questions of the Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS)

Just as we indicated above, this instrument uses five very concrete questions:

  1. In most ways, my life is close to my ideal.
  2. The conditions of my life are excellent.
  3. I’m satisfied with my life.
  4. So far, I’ve gotten the important things I want in life.
  5. If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing.

Is the satisfaction with life scale reliable?

The psychologists who developed the Satisfaction With Life Scale didn’t mean for it to measure aspects such as health, finances, or emotional relationships, among other things. It’s an instrument that measures subjective realities represented in its five items. It’s possible that you might doubt its results at first glance. Can this test really tell you if a person is satisfied with their current reality?

The answer is “yes”. Studies such as the one that Dr. William Pavot from the University of Minnesota conducted indicate that it’s highly valid. This is particularly true when we compare it to other scales that evaluate the same dimension. Aside from that, the Satisfaction With Life Scale allows you to evaluate how satisfaction with life changes in a person throughout the course of clinical intervention. As such, it’s a highly reliable resource. Not only that, but it’s also useful and extremely relevant in the fields of psychology and research.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The Satisfaction with Life Scale. Journal of Personality Assessment49, 71-75.
  • Pavot, W. G., Diener, E., Colvin, C. R., & Sandvik, E. (1991). Further validation of the Satisfaction with Life Scale: Evidence for the cross-method convergence of well-being measures. Journal of Personality Assessment, 57, 149-161.
  • Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (1993). Review of the Satisfaction with Life Scale. Psychological Assessment5, 164-172.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.