Frequently Asked Questions

What can I use the Happiness Pulse for?

Understanding wellbeing can be complex. We’ve built the Happiness Pulse to make it easy for any organisation to see how people are doing. The survey measures subjective wellbeing – which is an individual’s own assessment of their levels of happiness and then aggregates results so that you can get a sense of how a group of people are doing as a whole. 

You can use this information to

  • Understand how your work, project or culture is impacting people’s wellbeing 
  • Demonstrate that impact to funders, partners, or clients
  • See what’s going well for your respondents and what could be improved
  • Inform and evaluate actions, interventions and investments


Who can I get to take the Happiness Pulse?

The Happiness Pulse is used by many different types of organisations with many different types of relationship to their respondents such as


  • Your team or employees: using the Happiness Pulse is a great way to get a grip on how your team is feeling
  • Service users. If you provide a service which seeks to improve people’s wellbeing, ask the people you support to take the survey to get a sense of the impact your work has on them
  • Project participants:evaluate how your project or organisation’s work is impacting participant’s wellbeing
  • Residents or communities: the Happiness Pulse can be used at scale to get a picture of how entire communities are doing. It is particularly effective when used at local authority level and in combination with the Thriving Places Index.  

How can it help to improve wellbeing?

The first step to improving wellbeing is understanding your current baseline and pinpointing areas for action or intervention. The Happiness Pulse helps you do that by showing you aggregated results for the four main question domains as well as demographic breakdowns so you can see how people’s wellbeing is across different groups of age, gender and ethnicity. 

At Plus level you’re able to see the average scores for individual question results which gives you critical insight into how to best approach improving wellbeing. You can see whether people’s wellbeing might be suffering because they don’t feel connected enough, or because they are struggling to stay active, for example. The survey itself shows instant results, so respondents can get a quick idea about which areas of their life are going well, and which they might want to concentrate on. 

Happy City offers extensive consultancy and training packages to help you analyse the data and take action to improve the wellbeing of your respondent group. 


How have the questions been chosen?

The questions included in the Happiness Pulse survey were developed  based on in-depth reviews of the academic and policy literature on wellbeing measurement and focus groups with community organisations. Put together, they give a simple-to-understand view of how people are feeling. 

To some extent what makes people happy is very individual – but there are broad elements that can be seen across diverse groups of people that make it practical to measure and compare wellbeing across different groups. Our questions are organised into three main domains – emotional wellbeing, behavioural wellbeing and social wellbeing. These combine a range of data indicators to produce an authoritative and credible view of overall wellbeing. 

Some of the questions are taken from other surveys. 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). Other questions are based on existing surveys such as Understanding Society Survey and the Community Life Survey, slightly adapted to our survey style.

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.


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.

Which package is right for my organisation?

You can get an overview of what the different packages offer here. Advanced packages offer the greatest functionality – you can add up to 10 projects which allow you to analyse survey responses as discrete sets. At Advanced, it’s also possible for you to add additional survey modules, giving you greater insight into how your survey respondent’s wellbeing corresponds to their feelings about the world around them. 

At both Plus and Advanced level you’ll be able to see results for individual questions – allowing you to understand what areas to prioritise for change. 

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.

Are the survey responses anonymous?

Yes, it’s not possible to see an individual’s survey results. People are in general much more likely to respond if they know that their results will be kept private, and it’s at the level of a whole project, team or community that the data becomes meaningful. 

If it’s important for the success of your project to be able to track individual results over time, we might be able to develop a bespoke solution for you that allows you to do that.