Romanian Adaptation of the Satisfaction With Life Scale
Michael J. Stevens
Illinois State University and The Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu
Address for correspondence: Michael J. Stevens, Department of Psychology, Illinois State
University, Campus Box 4620, Normal, IL 61790-4620, USA. E-mail: mjsteven @ ilstu . edu
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences
Address: sos. Panduri,nr. 90, Bucuresti, Romania. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Faculty of Sciences, Dep. of Psychology
Address: Bd. Victoriei ,nr. 40, Sibiu, Romania. E-mail: email@example.com
Ovidius University of Constanta, Educational and Psychological Counseling Center
Address: Blvd. Mamaia, no.124, Constantza, Romania. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cristina Gabriela Sandu
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences
Address: sos. Panduri, nr. 90, Bucuresti, Romania. E-mail: email@example.com
Babes Bolyai University of Cluj, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Dep. of
Address: Str. Republicii, nr. 37, Cluj-Napoca, CJ 400015, Romania. E-mail:
Quality of life and well-being are key ingredients of mental health. There are several conceptual
models and derivative measures of well-being. Subjective well-being is, perhaps, the most
prominent perspective on well-being, with the Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS) constructed in
line with this perspective. Regrettably, the SWLS has not been adapted for use in scientific
research and applied practice in Romania. In our initial study, we translated the SWLS using
transliteration and back-translation procedures, and tested the equivalence of Romanian and
English versions of the SWLS with the bilingual retest technique. In our second study, we
established some of the psychometric properties of the Romanian SWLS, including its factor
structure. Preliminary results revealed high test-retest and internal consistency reliability,
convergent validity, and a single factor similar to that found in other cross-cultural adaptations of
the SWLS. Future research will entail further examination of the psychometric properties of the
Romanian SWLS and the development of national norms so that the instrument can be used in
research and practice.
Keywords – subjective well-being, Satisfaction With Life Scale, test adaptation
Throughout its history, clinical psychology has tended to define mental health as the
absence of mental illness. More recently, well-being has become an important topic in
understanding mental health (McNulty & Fincham, 2012; Schwarzer & Gutierrez-Dona, 2000).
The study of well-being falls within the domain of positive psychology, specifically positive
clinical psychology (McNulty & Fincham, 2012; Seligman & Peterson, 2003). The concept of
well-being has clear ties to psychology (e.g., satisfaction with life), whereas a related concept,
quality of life, reflects more objective conditions believed to impact the well-being of individuals
and society as a whole (e.g., social belonging) (Schumacher, Klaiberg, & Brahler, 2003). The
psychological study of well-being can be divided into two major areas: the hedonic view and the
eudaimonic view (see Ryan & Deci, 2001 for a review). Both traditions in the study of well-being
can be traced to ancient philosophy, with the hedonic view emphasizing a person’s happiness and
the eudaimonic view concerned with the optimal functioning of the individual (Ryan & Deci,
2001). Perhaps the best-known approach to the study of well-being from a hedonic framework
centers on subjective well-being (e.g., Diener, 1984). Subjective well-being is usually defined as
and measured with instruments that tap the dimensions of life satisfaction and both positive and
negative affect (Andrews & Withey, 1976).
Development of the SWLS
The Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS) was developed by Ed Diener and colleagues
(Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985). Although numerous scales of life satisfaction were in
use at the time, they were characterized by several important limitations: they either consisted of a
single item (Diener, 1984) or had been designed especially for geriatric populations (Lawton,
1975). Moreover, despite their stated goal, some of these scales did not exclusively measure
satisfaction with life (e.g., the Life Satisfaction Index) (Neugarten, Havinghust, & Tobin, 1961).
Therefore, the SWLS was developed as a multi-item scale to measure satisfaction with life as a
cognitive-judgmental process, according to the definition given by Shin and Johnson (1978): the
global way in which a person perceives quality of life according to his or her own subjective
Clinical and Non-clinical Uses of the SWLS
The measurement of satisfaction with life has considerable value in scientific research and
applied practice. First, an important approach in determining general quality of life is to measure
satisfaction with life as a cognitive-judgmental process (Diener, 1994; Veenhoven, 1996).
Moreover, life satisfaction can serve as a key social indicator in the evaluation of social change
(Baltatescu, 2006; Stevens, Constantinescu, & Butucescu, 2011). Apart from its scientific
relevance, the measurement of life satisfaction has value for clinicians (Heisel & Flett, 2003;
Patterson, Ptacek, Cromes, Fauerbach, & Engrav, 2000). For example, using the SWLS as an
index of well-being and mental health, clinical and quasi-clinical samples report less life
satisfaction than do non-clinical groups (Pavot & Diener, 1993). The SWLS can also be
administered by clinicians to ascertain a client`s level of well-being at intake and to track
therapeutic progress; Friedman (as cited in Pavot & Diener, 1993) found substantial improvement
in clients’ life satisfaction after 1 month of psychotherapy (M = 14.1 at onset, M = 26.9 at 1
The SWLS has been adapted for use in various countries, with normative data available
for diverse adult and student samples, medical inpatients and outpatients, prison inmates, abused
women, and psychotherapy clients (Pavot & Diener, 1993). Notwithstanding the potential
scientific and practical promise of the SWLS, Romanian scholars and clinicians at present do not
have an well-established adapted instrument that they can use in the measurement of satisfaction
with life. Their only option is the Lebenszufriedenheit (Life Satisfaction) scale of The Freiburg
Personality Inventory (Fahrenberg, Selg, & Hampel, 1970), a personality inventory that resembles
the 16PF and Eysenck Personality Inventory. Promising work has already been undertaken to
adapt the SWLS to Romania using rigorous scientific methods (Marian, 2007). Thus, we believe
that further research on the adaptation of the SWLS for use in Romania is a priority.
We conducted two studies that together were intended to demonstrate the validity of a new
and independent translation of the SWLS into the Romanian language. The first study aimed to
translate the SWLS into Romanian in accordance with International Test Commission guidelines
(Bartrum, 2000; Hambleton & Patsula, 1998), determine the equivalence of the Romanian version
with the original English SWLS, and provide evidence of the temporal stability of the translated
The bilingual Romanian university students who consented to participate in the translation
and adaptation of the SWLS were proficient in English; participants were 26 students majoring in
Modern English and 7 students majoring in Informatics, all of whom had been recommended by
their professors because of their ability to comprehend English language in its written form. The
decision to recruit students majoring in informatics was made in order to increase the
heterogeneity of the sample.
Five students did not return for the second testing and one student did not complete the
SWLS. The final bilingual sample contained 18 students with the following demographic
characteristics: 18-23 years old (M = 20.94, SD = 1.51), 4 (22.22%) men and 14 (77.78%)
women, and 10 (55.56%) majoring in English and 8 (44.44%) majoring in Informatics.
The Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS) is a 5-item measure of the cognitive-judgmental
component of subjective well-being. The unidirectional items that comprise the SWLS were
derived from factor and item analyses of an original set of 48 items. The SWLS measures the
cognitive aspects of life satisfaction as experienced phenomenological by inviting respondents to
evaluate their personal circumstances against normative standards. Responses are based on a 7-
point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree, 7 = strongly agree), with total scores above 20 indicating
life satisfaction. Students were asked to rate the degree to which they agreed with each item. The
approximate time required to complete the SWLS was 2-3 min.
Regarding reliability, the SWLS appears capable of accurately measuring ambient levels
of life satisfaction without being impervious to static fluctuations due to life events or therapeutic
progress (Pavot & Diener, 1993). The 2-month test-retest reliability of the SWLS is .82 (Diener et
al., 1985), with decreases in stability over longer time intervals given the measure’s sensitivity to
the impact of changing conditions on perceived life satisfaction (Magnus, Diener, Fujita, & Pavot,
1993). The internal consistency of the SWLS ranges from .79 (Pavot, Diener, Colvin, & Sandvik,
1991) to .89 (Alfonso, Allison, Rader, & Gorman, 1996).
The validity of the SWLS as an index of subjective well-being has been established
(Diener et al., 1985; Diener, Scollon, & Lucas, 2003; Diener, Suh, & Oishi, 1997). The SWLS is
moderately correlated with other measures of well-being, such as the Gurin Scale (.59-.62; Gurin,
Veroff, & Field, 1960) and Delighted-Terrible Scale (.62-.68; Andrews & Withey, 1976). In
addition to its concurrent validity, the SWLS has demonstrated moderate convergence with the
Beck Depression Inventory (-.51) and Social Interest Index (.46), the latter derived from Alfred
Adler’s construct that has conceptual ties to psychological health (Saunders & Roy, 1999). The
factorial validity of the SWLS has been consistently confirmed by evidence that the scale
measures a unidimensional construct (Diener et al., 1985; Maluka & Grieve, 2008), corroborating
the theoretical proposition that satisfaction with life is unitary (Pavot & Diener, 1993).
We used transliteration and back-translation procedures (Brislin, 1970) to translate the
SWLS into Romanian. Transliteration entails greater concern for preserving the psychological
meaning of an item than for deriving a literal translation. Back-translation (Butcher & Gur, 1974)
involves a subsequent re-translation of Romanian items into English to maximize their similarity
in meaning, linguistic form, and readability to the source instrument.
A philologist with a master’s degree translated the SWLS from English into Romanian.
Another master’s-degreed philologist back-translated Romanian items into English without
having seen the original English version of the SWLS. A professor of philology with a doctorate
provided input when either translator encountered linguistically challenging items. All three
members of the translation team were volunteers. After considering cultural idiosyncrasies,
idiomatic expressions, and grammatical and syntactical errors, one disputed item was modified
until the Romanian version was deemed equivalent by the entire team to the original SWLS. Both
versions of the SWLS are presented below.
We used the bilingual retest technique to determine the equivalence of our
translation (Butcher & Gur, 1974). We recruited bilingual students to complete the
original English and Romanian versions of the SWLS in counterbalanced order 2
weeks apart. Students gave informed consent and completed the measures
anonymously after providing a code that would allow only them to identify their
completed scores if they so desired.
To evaluate the equivalence of the Romanian translation, we performed a t-test for
correlated samples on scores for English and Romanian versions of the SWLS. Means for the
English SWLS (M = 22.61, SD = 4.77) and Romanian SWLS (M = 23.89, SD = 5.37) were not
statistically different, t(17) = 1.54, p > .05 (see Table 1). We then determined the test-rest
reliability of the Romanian SWLS by correlating the scores obtained from both test
administrations, r(16) = .78, p < .01. The results (see Table 2) are consistent with previous
international research reported by Pavot and Diener (1993) as well as with recent research
conducted in Romania (Marian, 2007), which found a similar test-retest reliability coefficient,
r(391)=.69, p < .01.
Table 1. Means, Standard Deviations, and t-test for English and Romanian Versions of the SWLS
Scale English Version Romanian Version
Mean SD Mean SD t- test
Satisfaction With Life Scale 22.611 4.767 23.889 5.368 1.544
Table 2. Pearson Product-Moment Correlation (r) Showing the Test-Retest Reliability of the
Scale Pearson Correlation
Satisfaction With Life Scale 0.783*
*p < 0.01
Given no significant difference between means for the English and Romanian forms of the
SWLS, we conclude that our translation yielded an equivalent version of the SWLS. Given the
strong positive correlation between the original and translated versions of the SWLS, we further
conclude that the Romanian SWLS has high short-term temporal stability, a finding that dovetails
with those of other studies (Diener et al., 1985; Marian, 2007).
Having constructed an equivalent version of the SWLS in the Romanian language and
demonstrated its temporal stability, we then proceeded to investigate the concurrent and
convergent validity of the Romanian SWLS by comparing it to other highly regarded instruments
that have been translated into Romanian and which tap constructs that are theoretically related to
subjective well-being. We also explored the factor structure of the Romanian SWLS.
We recruited 73 volunteers, 12 of whom were men (16.44%) and 61 women (83.56%).
The sample ranged in age from 19-50 years of age (M = 28.7, SD = 7.92). Most were ethnically
Romanian (85.0%), Orthodox (84.0%), university-educated (52.8%), never married or engaged
(50.7%), and without children (46.9%). The sample reported a median monthly income of 200-
We selected and administered five instruments that we considered to be psychometrically
sound and appropriate for demonstrating the concurrent and convergent validity of the Romanian
SWLS: the Romanian SWLS - Peer Report Version (SWLS Peer), State Self-esteem Scale -
Current Thoughts (SGC; Heatherton & Polivy, 1991; Marian, 2009), Hospital Anxiety Scale
(HAS) and Hospital Depression Scale (HAD) (Ladea, 2007; Snaith, 2003), and Center for
Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D; Radloff, 1977).
We created the SWLS Peer by transforming the five items of the Romanian SWLS from
the first person singular into the third person singular. For example, “I am satisfied with my life”
became “He/She is satisfied with his/her life”. When we distributed the SWLS Peer along with
the other four measures, we instructed participants to invite a close relative or friend to complete
the SWLS Peer with them in mind.
The SGU is an index of transient fluctuations in self-esteem (Heatherton & Polivy, 1991).
It consists of 20 items and correlates 0.82 with the Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale. The SGU has
three correlated dimensions: performance, social, and appearance self-esteem. The SGU has been
translated into Romanian and adapted by Marian Mihai (2009), who granted permission for its use
in the current study.
The HAS and HAD scales have performed well in assessing the incidence and severity of
anxiety and depressive disorders, respectively, in medical/surgical and psychiatric patients in
hospital settings and in the general population (Snaith, 2003). Translation into Romanian and
further validation of the HAS and HAD have been undertaken by Maria Ladea (2007).
The CES-D (Radloff, 1977) is a self-report measure of depressive symptoms in the general
population. The 20 items of the CES-D measure affective and somatic dimensions of depression
as reflected in depressed mood, feelings of guilt and worthlessness, helplessness, psychomotor
retardation, loss of appetite, and sleep disturbance. The CES-D has been translated into
Romanian and its level of equivalence reported in previous research (Stevens et al., in press).
After receiving permission to use the instruments just described, we transposed these
measures, along with a background data sheet, into two online forms using Google docs. Links to
these online documents were then disseminated to various psychology-related websites and online
discussion groups. Interested individuals were invited to complete the forms either by printing
out a hard copy, filling in the blank spaces, and returning the completed form, or by electronically
selecting and entering the most appropriate answer while online. Consent was implied by the
voluntary choice to participate and respondents could freely terminate their participation at any
time. Participants were encouraged to take their time and provide honest, thoughtful responses.
Ten participants completed the measures in paper-and-pencil format. Each participant took
approximately 30 min to complete all measures. Participants’ answers were automatically
transferred to an output data file, with the data then subjected to a series of statistical analyses.
The Cronbach alpha of .82 demonstrated high international consistency reliability for the
Romanian SWLS (see Table 3). However, item 5 (“Daca as putea sa mai traiesc viata inca odata
nu as schimba aproape nimic [If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing]”), did
not meet the corrected item-total correlation coefficient criterion of .40. Alpha values decreased
when each of the first four items were separately omitted (.74-.75). When item 5 was removed,
the alpha level rose to .90, increasing the homogeneity of the resultant scale (see Table 4). Item 5
appeared to elicit somewhat less favorable judgments of life satisfaction (63.5% disagreed slightly
to strongly whereas only 29.8% agreed slightly to strongly), perhaps owing to some as yet
unknown meaning that respondents attributed to this item. For example, while fairly satisfied
overall, respondents may have felt that they could attain even greater satisfaction if given a
chance to relive their lives (Maluka & Grieve, 2008).
Table 3. Internal Consistency Reliability of the Romanian SWLS
Cronbach Alpha Number of Items
Table 4. Internal Consistency Reliability of the Romanian SWLS when Deleting Each Item
Item Alpha Standard Alpha
As expected, significant one-tailed Pearson correlation coefficients, tested at an alpha level
of < .01 using a Bonferroni correction, were obtained for the Romanian SWLS with SWLS Peer,
r(71) = .57, SGC, r(71) = .57), HAS, r(71) = -.69, HAD, r(71) = -.41, and CES-D, r(71) = -.54
(see Table 5). The direction and moderate strength of these associations are evidence of the
convergent validity of the Romanian SWLS. Previous research on another Romanian version of
the SWLS (Marian, 2007) showed a similar pattern of correlations with anxiety, depression and
life satisfaction. Our findings provide additional evidence of for the convergent validity of the
Romanian SWLS in the form of significant positive correlations with peer ratings and reports of
Table 5. Pearson Product-Moment Correlations Reflecting the Convergent Validity of the
Measure SWLS Peer CES-D SGC HAS HAD
SWLS 0.57** -0.54** 0.57** -0.69** 0.41**
** Correlations are significant at the 0.01 level (1-tailed)
We subjected the five items of the Romanian SWLS to a principal components factor
analysis with varimax rotation. The sample size (N = 73), Kaiser-Meyer-Olin test of sampling
adequacy (.78), and Bartlett’s test of sphericity (p < .0005) together indicated sufficient power,
sampling adequacy, and association among items, respectively, to conduct a factor analysis. An
eigenvalue of 1 served as the criterion for factor extraction. The results yielded a single factor
with an eigenvalue of 3.21 that accounted for 64.18% of the variance in responses. The first four
items of the Romanian SWLS had communality estimates of .76-.80, whereas item 5 (“Daca as
putea sa mai traiesc viata inca odata nu as schimba aproape nimic [If I could live my life over, I
would change almost nothing]”) did not meet the communality estimation criterion of ≥ .3, having
a much lower factor loading of .12. With item 5 removed, a second principal components factor
analysis was run, again producing a single factor, this time with an eigenvalue of 3.12 that
explained 78.02% of the variance, increasing the factorial validity of the scale somewhat. The
findings reported in a previous validation study of another Romanian SWLS (Marian, 2007) were
similar, with the exception that item 5 of that translated instrument performed better.
The internal consistency of the Romanian SWLS was high, even without the removal of
item 5, and comparable to the level of scale homogeneity reported in previous research (Alfonso
et al., 1996; Pavot et al., 1991). We also demonstrated the construct validity of the Romanian
SWLS as indicated by moderate positive correlations with peer reports of satisfaction with life
and an index of state self-esteem, and by moderate negative correlations with measures of the
severity of anxiety and depressive disorders and depressive symptoms; these findings comport
with those of earlier studies (Diener et al, 2003; Marian, 2007; Pavot & Diener, 1993). Consistent
with the literature, we also found evidence of the factorial validity of the Romanian SWLS
(Marian, 2007; Pavot & Diener, 1993); all five items revealed the existence of a single factor that
accounted for 64% of the variability of the scale, almost identical to the 66% of total variance
explained in Diener et al. (1985). The SWLS seems to be a unitary construct, with its
unidimensionality replicated after being translated and administered to different cross-national
samples (Maluka & Grieve, 2008; Pavot & Diener, 1993). However, like other studies, we found
a relatively low item-total correlation and factor loading for item 5. Pavot and Diener (1993)
suggest that the weaker homogeneity and convergence for this item as compared to the other
items may reflect its distinctive past time orientation, which could have elicited an unspecified
culturally grounded interpretation by Romanian respondents. Additional research designed to
clarify the relationship of time orientation to perceived life satisfaction is warranted, a especially
given conflicting evidence in research on an alternative Romanian version of the SWLS. Of
course, this discrepant finding could be due sampling differences between the two validity studies
of different Romanian versions of the SWLS. Although the Romanian translation of item 5
appeared equivalent across studies, the sample used by Marian (2007) was almost four times as
large and noticeably more heterogeneous with respect to age, education level, and marital status.
The purpose of our research was twofold: (1) to translate the SWLS into the Romanian
language using rigorous, standardized procedures and demonstrate the equivalence of the
translated version with the parent instrument, and (2) to establish the reliability and validity of the
Romanian SWLS. Although our studies were constrained by relatively small and homogeneous
samples of convenience, we can assert that our translation of the SWLS has promise as a measure
of the cognitive component of subjective well-being, specifically satisfaction with life, in
scientific research and clinical practice in Romania, which will add to the cross-national literature
on this topic (Schumacher et al., 2003). Moreover, consistent with previous research conducted in
Romania (Marian, 2007), our findings lend support for satisfaction with life as a culturally
relevant construct as well as for the Romanian SWLS as a suitable instrument with which to
measure it. Although a validation study of SWLS had already been conducted in Romania
(Marian, 2007), our findings confirm the usefulness of the Romanian SWLS by replicating
previous findings (e.g., temporal stability), notwithstanding minor differences in item translation.
Our study also extended validation research on the Romanian SLWS by correlating scores with
peer reports and other measures predicted to have a relationship to the construct of life satisfaction
Future investigations should examine the temporal stability versus sensitivity of the
Romanian SWLS, as any measure of life satisfaction worth its salt is expected to demonstrate
both capacities (Pavot & Diener, 1993). Such studies might involve administrations of the
Romanian version over increasingly longer time intervals. Different measures of life satisfaction
can be administered simultaneously on multiple occasions to discover the extent to which
variations in scale scores reflect actual change over time or error variance. In addition, the
Romanian SWLS can be used to test the relationship of scale scores to the presence or absence of
major life events as well as to other life circumstance in which this psychological trait and process
is hypothesized either to enhance or threaten well-being (McNulty & Fincham, 2012).
Further inquiries are needed to establish the discriminant validity of the Romanian SWLS,
perhaps using a multi-trait – multi-method research design or by factor analyzing the Romanian
SWLS along with measures of positive and negative affect. The latter approach would help to
clarify whether the more general construct of subjective well-being incorporates cognitive (i.e.,
life satisfaction) and emotional (i.e., positive and negative affect) components as separate or
integrated dimensions (Pavot & Diener, 1993).
Given that the SWLS is a cognitive-judgmental measure of satisfaction with life, research
is needed to identify the cognitive structures and processes that contribute to life satisfaction. For
example, Romanians’ internal locus of control is lower than that of Americans (Spector et al.,
2001) and their generalized expectancies reflect greater perceived hostility by the social system in
which they live (Bond et al., 2004). Such fatalism and apprehension imply that Romanians may
be disadvantaged in their opportunities to experience life satisfaction.
Finally, it is imperative to develop a set of national norms for Romanians and other ethnic
groups in Romania so that the Romanian SWLS can be used in basic and applied research and in
clinical practice. As fundamental is the importance of examining the sources of cross-cultural
differences in SWLS scores, specifically efforts to disentangle genuine differences in life
satisfaction from a host of contextual variables (e.g., economic, political, social, cultural) that are
germane to this issue (see McNulty & Fincham, 2012, for a more complete discussion of the need
to adopt a contextual view of well being as a psychological trait and process). For instance, the
perceived status of Romanians (i.e., goods owned and favorable social comparisons) is tied to
their subjective well-being (Cernat, 2010), suggesting that, unlike more economically robust
countries, Romania may not be able to provide its citizens with the same preconditions for life
satisfaction as those found in Western Europe and North America.
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