Human Welfare Metrics

A quick summary of Human Welfare Metrics


Using the right metrics is important to estimate the cost-effectiveness of different interventions. The most commonly used measure for the cost-effectiveness of near-term human welfare is the Quality-Adjusted Life Year (QALY).

However, the use of QALYs has recently been criticised (source) because it relies on a methodology that systematically overestimates the impact of certain disabilities (e.g. loss of mobility). As a consequence, disabilities that score high on multiple measures (e.g. extreme pain, mental disabilities) might be underprioritized.

Criteria for selecting a measure
In selecting the right measure, at least the following criteria are important:

  • Validity: does it measure what we want it to measure?
  • Availability: is there enough data available to compare the impact of different interventions?
  • ..

Types of measures

  • Quality-Adjusted Life-Years (QALY's) & Disability-Adjusted LIfe-Years (DALY's)
  • Subjective Wellbeing (SWB) measures
  • Life Satisfaction measures.


  • Clark, A. E., Flèche, S., Layard, R., Powdthavee, N., & Ward, G. (2018). The origins of happiness: the science of well-being over the life course. Princeton University Press.