Welcome to the home of
the Spiritual Well-Being Scale
Helping assess your perceived relationship with God,
sense of life purpose and life satisfaction.
The History

The development of the spiritual Well-Being Scale began at a time in American society when there was an increasing interest in measuring various aspects of the quality of life. Simultaneously with this, there occurred an interest in and awareness of spiritual issues and the religious aspects of human experience. The initial approaches to measuring life quality included measuring tangible and countable goods and services, such as the number of household items that existed in the average home. On the other hand, it was also argued that some of the most important and meaningful aspects of life do not equal such tangible and countable things. Some felt that "the quality of life lies in the experience of life" (Campbell, 1976). Because of this, an interest in the measurement of the subjective aspects of the quality of life experience came about. One expression of this was the development of the Spiritual Well-Being Scale.


Dr. Ellison's interest was peaked by the writings of Dr. David Moberg of Marquette University who urged the development of empirical measurement and reasearch on spiritual well-being. During 1975-76, Dr. Ellison began formulating possible items for a scale that might measure a quality of life indicator to assess spiritual well-being. At about the same time he met and began a friendship with fellow experimental social psychologist Raymond F. Paloutzian.

Doctors Ellison and Paloutzian first confronted the question of whether it was even possible to measure a dimension of the human mind called "spiritual" or "spiritual well-being." Is there such a property of the human mind, and if so, can a valid and reliable instrument be created to measure it? This seemed an intriguing, puzzling assignment for them because creating good measures is difficult and because the psychological and mental aspects of spirituatlity are among the most complex properties that exist within the human mind.

Because both doctors Ellison and Paloutzian were trained as social psychologists and knew the statistical properties of good measurement, they understood the criteria that had to be met if a tool designed to measure spiritual well-being was to be useful. The tool had to reliably and validly asssess what people meant when they talked about their spiritual well-being and had to be sufficiently general so as to be usable by people of different spiritual or religious persuasions.

The inital task was to learn what people meant by "spiritual." Because this scale was designed to assess people's perception of their own sense of spiritual well-being, people were asked to describe their spiritual well-being in their own terms. Literature on the topic was also studied. From these two sources it became clear that people talked about their sense of spiritual well-being in two senses. Some people used distinctively religious language to talk about it. Other people talked about their sense of spiritual well-being in nonreligious language. Sometimes these two ways of talking about it overlapped. Because of this, there was a deliberate effort to develop a spiritual well-being scale that would have two subscales: one to measure religious well-being and one to measure existential well-being.

After an initial large pool of items was written and tested, a fifteen item version of the scale was developed. This was revised and retested, and the final twenty item version was set in place. This was presented at the American Psychological Association convention in 1979 and was first published in 1982.

Since that time, the authors have received hundreds of requests to use the scale in research, education, clinics, hospitals, and religious settings throughout the world. For example, the scale was used in the U.S. Navy professional training course on spiritual development (FY97) given to approximately 800 military chaplains worldwide. The Spiritual Well-Being Scale has been completed by thousands of people and is being translated into non-English languages. The authors look back with a deep sense of gratification at how one initial, creative idea was implemented and how over the years people found the scale useful for a variety of helpful purposes.


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