Arthur Stone, distinguished professor and vice chairman of psychiatry and behavioral
science at Stony Brook University, says that the surveys behind these data ask
very broad questions and it’s not always clear what’s behind people’s
Stone tried a different approach. In collaboration with a Gallup survey, he
asked people how they felt yesterday, with regard to stress, worry, happiness.
The questions were simple and only asked about the previous day, avoiding problems
posed by poor recall.
Obviously, any one day might not reflect the norm of someone’s satisfaction
with life. But if you ask enough people, he says, the effects of off days will
be minimized. Stone’s questions were posed to 340,000 people in 2008.
His results showed a different pattern than had been found previously. For
example, 50% of people in their 20s reported being stressed, compared to only
18% of those in their 80s. Stone found a similar life-long decline in worry
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences.
Stone says his survey methodology should be useful for policy makers and health
care assessors. “We’re suggesting that looking at even a small slice
of daily life experience is one way to understand how different medical treatments
or policies affect people’s well-being,” he says.