I gave a talk recently at the Whitaker Institute in NUI Galway (slides here). It was a well-attended session with people from several disciplines and there was a good debate during and afterwards about the usefulness of such indices.
I promised to send some links related to the talk. Below is not exhaustive and am happy to add further material if there are specific questions or suggestion.
General treatments of well-being:
Richard Layard's well-known book on happiness is a good introduction.
Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress
The work of Ed Diener includes many journal and book summaries of the state of knowledge on subjective well-being. (see also work of people like David Blanchflower, Andrew Oswald, Bernard Van Praag, Alois Stutzer, Andrew Clark).
Literature referenced during the talk:
Cormac O'Grada's paper on the five Irish economic crises is a great backdrop for the discussion.
Walsh (2012) Adjusting to the crisis: well–being and economic conditions in Ireland
Carol Newman & Liam Delaney & Brian Nolan, 2008. "A Dynamic Model of the Relationship Between Income and Financial Satisfaction: Evidence from Ireland," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 39(2), pages 105-130.
The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700-2100: Europe, America, and the Third World (Cambridge University Press, 2004).
Christopher K. Hsee, Yang Yang, Naihe Li, Luxi Shen (2009). Wealth, Warmth, and Well-Being: Whether Happiness Is Relative or Absolute Depends on Whether It Is About Money, Acquisition, or Consumption. Journal of Marketing Research: Vol. 46, No. 3, pp. 396-409.
Delaney, Fernihough and Smith (2013 forthcoming in Demography) "Exporting Poor Health: The Irish in England". WP version here.
Gary King's webpage on anchoring vignettes provides a wealth of information on this approach.
A new working paper by Wolfers, Stephenson and Sacks summarises their take on the debate with Easterlin (see Easterlin's recent publications for the alternative view).
ONS National Well-Being page
UN Human Development Index
Canadian Index of Well-Being
New Economic Foundation Well-Being Indices
OECD Your Better Life Index
United Nationals World Happiness Report
Data relevant to Ireland:
The five rounds of the European Social Survey provide a substantial data-sets for people interested in comparing well-being across Europe between 2002 and 2010.
The Irish Social Science Data Archive contains several data-sets with well-being information for Ireland. The Living in Ireland surveys are a very important resource. Subjective data in EU-SILC is, unfortunately, very limited.
The Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) is an important source of data on the aging population in Europe.
Gallup World Poll is a major global data-set that includes Ireland.
The Eurobarometer contains data on life satisfaction dating back to the early 1970s.