Family-related life events

Insights from two Australian longitudinal studies
Research Report No. 22 – December 2012

Appendix A. HILDA measures used to assess wellbeing

Satisfaction with life in general

Partnered respondents were asked to indicate, when all things were considered, how satisfied they were with their life. Ratings were rated on a scale ranging from 0 reflecting “completely dissatisfied” to 10 reflecting “completely satisfied”. For the purposes of the present analysis, 8–10 were deemed to reflect “high satisfaction”.

Sense of vitality (SF-36)

“Sense of vitality” is a four-item measure in which the high scores indicated that the respondent had tended to feel “full of life” and “having lots of energy” and not “tired” or “worn out” during the past four weeks, while low scores would reflect the opposite. Average ratings were derived for this measure.

Mental health (SF-36)

This five-item scale reflects emotional wellbeing over the past four weeks. High scores tapped feeling peaceful and happy, rather than nervous and “down” and finding that nothing could instil cheerfulness, while low scores reflected the opposite.

Sense of social isolation

This scale entailed five items rated on a 7-point scale ranging from 1 “strongly disagree” to 5 “strongly agree”. The items rated were: “I often feel very lonely”, “People don’t come to visit me as often as I would like”, “I often need help from other people but can’t get it”, “I don’t have anyone that I can confide in”, and “I have no-one to lean on in times of trouble”. Each respondents’ average rating for all five items were derived, with high average ratings reflecting a high sense of loneliness. In addition, average ratings of 5–7 were classified as reflecting a high sense of loneliness. Finally, ratings for the single item that most directly reflects loneliness (“I often feel lonely”) was included in the analysis. The average ratings were re-scaled so that scores range from 0 to 10, with higher scores meaning a greater sense of social isolation.

Sense of social connection

The five items measuring sense of social support were intermixed with those measuring sense of loneliness scale, given that the same 7-point rating scale was used. The items were “I seem to have a lot of friends”, “There is someone who can always cheer me up when I’m down”, “I enjoy the time I spend with the people who are important to me”, “When something’s on my mind, just talking with the people I know can make me feel better, and “When I need someone to help me out, I can usually find someone”. One again, each respondent’s average rating across the five items was derived. High scores therefore reflected a strong sense of social support. Furthermore, respondents whose average ratings were 5–7 were classified as having a strong sense of social support. The average ratings were re-scaled so that scores range from 0 to 10, with higher scores meaning a greater sense of social connection.

Overall wellbeing

Overall wellbeing is a composite measure based on respondents’ scores for life satisfaction, vitality, mental health and sense of social isolation and sense of social connection. In this analysis, scores for sense of loneliness were reversed; that is, high scores reflected an absence of loneliness. The scores on each of these measures converted to z-scores (where the mean becomes “0” and the standard deviation is “1”). In this way, the scales were made equivalent, and each respondent’s scores for each measure could be summated and averaged. Respondents whose scores were in the lowest quartile (i.e., they were among the 25% of respondents with the lowest scores) were classified as having low wellbeing, and those whose scores were in the highest quartile (i.e., they were among the 25% of respondents with the highest scores) were classified as having high wellbeing.