A terrific story today in The New York Times science section about gauging the nation's mood not through traditional surveys asking people how they feel but rather through the kinds of songs they craft or the blogs they write. Or as a pullout says: "Looking for clues to well-being in what we sing and say." The image to the right is hotlinked from the Times story and nicely sums up what it has to say.
A couple of statisticians at the University of Vermont have created an analysis strategy that taps into our sense of well-being in a field called mass psychology. As they note, every methodology has its drawbacks. Asking people about their well-being may actually influence it, so this is an indirect approach that skips asking people and instead looks at what they do or say.
The Gallup Well-Being Index a traditional, survey-based approach, and a damned good one too. Play with the tabs. Much fun.
I don't want to go deeper into the NYT story. Read it for yourself if you're interested in what people know or what they reveal about their own well-being through a less-than-traditional-but-awfully-cool approach. Yes, I'm suffering from methodological envy. Why didn't I think of this?