Frequently Asked Questions

Design and content of the Happiness Pulse

How did you decide what topics to cover?

The Happiness Pulse questions were selected from two processes: a) a review of the academic and policy literature on wellbeing measurement; and b) focus groups with individuals and community organisations. This enabled us to develop three domains, encompassing the primary influences on wellbeing — emotional wellbeing (BE), behavioural wellbeing (DO) and social wellbeing (CONNECT). We chose questions that give a comprehensive picture of people’s wellbeing that is both intuitive and informative and academically rigorous.


Is there an academic model behind the Happiness Pulse?

Wellbeing is a complex construct that concerns optimal experience and functioning. Current research on wellbeing has been derived from two general perspectives: the hedonic approach, which defines well-being in terms of pleasure attainment and pain avoidance, and the eudaimonic approach, which focuses on meaning and self-realisation and defines well-being in terms of the degree to which a person is fully functioning. The Happiness Pulse is based on eudaimonic wellbeing.


Do the questions come from existing sources or do you design them yourself?

Both. We use two questions from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) quality of life set of four questions. The BE section of the Happiness Pulse uses all seven questions from the (Short) Warwick Edinburgh Mental WellBeing Survey (SWEMWBS). Many other questions are based on existing surveys such as Understanding Society Survey and the Community Life Survey, slightly adapted to our survey style.

How do you calculate the individual results?

Several steps are taken to calculate an individual’s results.
1. Standardising scores
Questions in the Pulse have different response scales. To make them easier to compare, we standardise the scores by converting them to Z-scores:
Z-score = original response — mean response
standard deviation of responses
We use the means and standard deviations from a nationally representative sample of Pulse responses, which was collected by YouGov.

2.  Aggregation
To get a score for a whole domain from the responses to individual questions, we aggregate scores by adding together all the Z-scores within a domain, and dividing by the number of questions in the domain.

3. Rescaling
Although Z-scores are comparable, to aid understanding we rescale the domain scores so that the overall mean for each domain is 6.5 and the range is 0-10.

4. Transformation to percentiles
To aid interpretation of scores, we also transform scores into a percentile: a 1-100 scale, where each unit on the scale represents a 100th of the range of scores in the nationally representative sample.
To show users of the Pulse their percentile score for a domain, we look up what percentile their domain score falls into in the nationally representative sample. For example, if they got a general wellbeing score of 5, this score falls into the 23rd percentile of scores for the nationally representative sample and a score of 23% is displayed. This means they scored better than 23% of the UK population.

Has the survey been validated?

Yes. We validated the survey with researchers at the University of Bristol using the data we received as part of our small-scale city pilot in 2015. We continue to validate our approach with the data we collect to ensure the Happiness Pulse can be taken by and produce valid results for a representative sample of people.

Using the Happiness Pulse in your organisation

How do I decide which package I want?

The automated levels differ in several ways – 1) the level of data analysis provided 2) the number of different teams or projects you want to take the Happiness Pulse and 3) the option of an additional Community module which provides more information about where respondents live. By browsing the information at each level you can decide which one most meets your needs.

Is it possible to transfer or upgrade between packages once I’ve signed up?

Yes, you can upgrade from our Essential to our Plus level at the click of a button, in order to release more in-depth data analysis. You can decide that you would like to increase the number of projects and upgrade to our Advanced level, and receive more than one Pulse URL. However you cannot upgrade retrospectively to include the Community Pulse in your package as it adds an additional set of questions to be completed. This is because your all your respondents need to complete the same survey questions for results to make sense and be valid.

Do I have to create a new account every time I want a new Happiness Pulse?

Not necessarily.
If you sign up for an Advanced package, then you only need to sign up once, but you can create up to 10 projects within your account, each with their own unique Pulse survey URL.
If you have the Essential or Plus package, you are only eligible for a single Pulse project and associated survey URL.

Is there a limit to how many times the Pulse can be taken?

Yes and no.

No – There is no limit to the number of people who can complete the Pulse survey via a Pulse URL.

Yes – We do not advise that the same individuals take the Pulse multiple times at the same URL as it will be difficult for you to identify change over time. If you would like to ask the same people to take the Pulse more than once, e.g. before and after a six-week project intervention, we recommend that you purchase the Advanced package which will allow you to create separate Pulse projects with their own unique URLs for the ‘before’ and ‘after’ survey completion.

Outside of a before and after application, we don’t recommend you ask the same group of people to take the Pulse too frequently, in order to give people time to make changes to improve their wellbeing.

Can you explain the URL approach in more detail?

When you create an account, you are automatically issued with a unique URL where respondents can take your Pulse survey. Your respondents complete the Pulse survey via this URL. The results are saved to your Pulse project, and when four responses have been collected you can view the results in your Results Dashboard.

To collect Pulse survey responses, you can share the URL with your targeted respondents anywhere you like, such as via your website or by email.

At Advanced level, you can create multiple Pulse projects, each with their own unique Pulse survey URL. At Advanced level, the text in the Pulse survey URL is customisable (otherwise your URL will be composed of a randomly generated string of numbers and letters).

Am I able to add my own questions to the existing survey?

No, not within the survey itself. The core Happiness Pulse is a validated survey which we compare with a national representative sample of people who have also taken the Pulse. It works as a whole set of questions and hence cannot be supplemented.
Our demographic questions are also standard for Essential, Plus and Advanced packages. If you require additional or different demographic information for an additional cost, please contact us to discuss bespoke options:
We are aware that users of the Pulse sometimes want to use the survey opportunity to ask additional questions to help understand their respondents more. That’s why we created the Community Pulse and why are currently working on a Youth Pulse, a Housing Pulse and a Workplace Pulse to add to our portfolio.
If you would like us to work with you at a bespoke level, If we work at a bespoke level with clients, then we can design very specific add-on questions that to help you help them to meet your their project outcomes. Contact us to discuss bespoke options: