A joint project by
Institute for Social Studies of the University Of Warsaw and
Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences

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Social Diagnosis 2000-2007, Objective and Subjective Quality of Life in Poland

Title of the StudySocial Diagnosis 2000-2007, Objective and Subjective Quality of Life in Poland
Full name of the institution depositing the dataThe Council for Social Monitoring, University of Finance and Management in Warsaw
Principal InvestigatorJanusz Czapiński, Tomasz Panek
Contact personJanusz Czapiński
Data collection languageEN
Documentation languageEN

The purpose of the study

There are two ways of describing the conditions and quality of life of a society: its development potential and the direction of changes, threats and challenges. One of these is based upon institutional indicators – macroeconomic (such as GDP or the inflation rate) and macrosocial (such as the registered unemployment rate, the number of doctors per 100 thousand inhabitants, infant mortality, education or parliamentary election turnout). The other refers to the opinions and behaviors of citizens. Neither of these is fully accurate, reliable and sufficient. The fact that people become more affluent when GDP is increasing does not mean that they are more satisfied or more willing to demonstrate civic engagement. The registered unemployment rate does not necessarily have to reflect the actual ratio of people who are deprived of employment against their will. These two ways of describing society should be treated complementarily; they should balance and complement one another. Only when this condition is met, can politicians, business owners, and citizens be provided with an answer to two important questions: what the situation is and why it is not better – that is, a relatively comprehensive and reliable diagnosis. And a good diagnosis is necessary for effective therapy and wise reforms that minimize the social cost. Our project is an attempt to complement the diagnosis based upon institutional indexes, including the most recent general census (General National Census; GNC, 2002) with complex data regarding households, and the attitudes, frames of mind and behaviors of people who make up these households. It is a diagnosis of the conditions and quality of life of Poles from their own point of view. Using two separate questionnaires, we examined households and all of their available members, who are 16 or older. The complexities of our project means that we took into account in a single research project all of the important aspects of life of families and their members. This included both the economic (such as income, and material situation) and non-economic aspects (such as aspirations, health care, insurance, ways of coping with stress, life events, psychological well-being, lifestyle, pathological behaviors, participation in culture, use of modern communication technologies, etc). In this sense, it is an interdisciplinary project. This is also reflected by the composition of the Council for Social Monitoring, that is, the main authors of the project and the team of experts invited to join them by the Council. These groups include economists, a demographer, psychologists, sociologists, an insurance specialist, an expert in health economics and statisticians. In accordance with the original concept, the research conducted within the project of the Social Diagnosis has taken the panel form: every few years, we go back to the same households and people. The first measurement was conducted in the year 2000, and the subsequent one – three years later. The next two projects were conducted in two-year intervals. The project is always conducted in March in order to eliminate the seasonality effect. The present report shows not only the current image of Polish society; it also allows us to monitor changes in the same households and among the same people in a period of seven years.
Social Diagnosis is focused not on the analysis of transient opinions, but on more basic facts, behaviors, attitudes and experiences; it is not an ordinary descriptive survey – it is a scientific project. This is not only due to the fact that among the authors there are scientists, university employees and professors. The decisive factor is the professional system of work, based upon research experience of the members of the Council for Social Monitoring and the team of experts and – most of all – the theoretical context of the particular problems. Most variables taken into account on the project are not a result of intuition, informal observation or the demands of the sponsors, but of scientifically-based knowledge about the examined phenomena. An important objective of the Diagnosis is, apart from describing Polish society, to verify scientific hypotheses. In the present report, which is aimed at the ‗general public‘, it was necessary to limit the discussion of theoretical issues to a minimum. The most important issue is the answer to an open question: what is Polish society like, 18 years after the systemic transformation and 7 years after the first research conducted within the confines of the same project?
We hope that the results of implementing this project will provide politicians, business owners and local government activists responsible for the preparation, implementation and amendment of reforms that change the living conditions of all citizens with valuable knowledge. We would also like to provide society with reliable information regarding its everyday life, since the perception that individuals have of their own situation in comparison with that of other people are usually based upon selective observation, stereotypes or views that are propagated by the media. These are often false or exaggerated (informing the public, for instance, of the worsening condition of the psychological health in our society, of the complete paralysis of health care services, of retirees or older people being the social category that economically suffered most during the transformation process – to provide only a few examples). We all deserve a relatively accurate, comprehensive and objective diagnosis of the main sources of our everyday problems, ideas of psychological discomfort, uncertainty of the future or difficulty in adapting to the new conditions, but also pointing out the benefits of subsequent systemic transformations. Private diagnoses are often too illusory, defensive, simplified, and, in general, mistaken.
The differences between the present and the previous research pertain to the sample and the scope, reflected by the content of the questionnaire (see Annex). The sample was increased from the original 3005 in 2000 to 5532 households (thanks to this, the sample of individual respondents increased from 66625 to approximately 12641 people). Changes in the questionnaires in the subsequent research waves pertained to several modules. This year, the volume of the module concerning healthcare was dramatically reduced, while the labor market module was developed.

Main topics of the study

The project comprises many aspects associated with the situation of households and individual citizens. The social indicators, taken into account here, can be divided into three general classes: the demographic and social structure of households, the living conditions of households associated with their material conditions, access to health care services, culture, recreation, education and modern communication technologies, the subjective quality of life, lifestyle, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors of individual respondents. The indices that describe the demographic and social structure of the households are not subject to separate analysis in the present report; they serve only as a means of stratifying the groups of households and individuals in order to enable a comparison of the conditions and quality of life according to various social categories, such as gender, age, education level, place of residence, social and professional status, main source of income, civil status, type of household (created on the basis of the number of families and biological family type) and other criteria. Subject to analysis are, in fact, the living conditions of households and the quality of life of individual citizens in association with the social change that determines global context and general rules of the functioning of a society. One of the main problems and questions that accompany all social reforms is the distribution of advantages and costs that result from their implementation in particular social groups over varying time intervals. Also in this research project, we wanted to find out which categories of households and citizens find their feet in the new conditions and take advantage of the systemic transformations, and which social groups are unable to cope with the new situation, experiencing objectively or subjectively more losses than gains. In this project, the distinction between the social indicators of living conditions and the individual quality of life is more or less consistent with the distinction between the objective description of the situation (conditions) and its psychological meaning, expressed by the subjective opinion of the respondent (quality of life)*. This distinction is generally consistent with the type of unit examined and the measurement method. For the living conditions, the examined unit is the household as a whole, and for the quality of life – its individual members. The living conditions were measured by conducting an interview with one representative of the household (a well-informed person; most often, it was the head of the household). The quality of life, on the other hand, was measured using self-report questionnaire addressed to all available members of the examined households who have reached the age of 16. The measurement of living conditions of the household included: household income and their way of managing income, nutrition, material affluence of the household, including modern communication technology equipment (mobile phone, computer, Internet access), housing conditions, social benefits received by the household, education of children, participation in culture and recreation, taking advantage of health care services, household situation on the labor market, taking advantage of social benefits, insurance and retirement security, poverty and other aspects of social exclusion. Indicators of the quality of life and lifestyle of individual respondents included: general psychological well-being (including: the will-to-live, sense of happiness, satisfaction with life, depression), satisfaction with different areas and aspects of life, subjective evaluation of the material standard of living, various types of stress (including ―office stress associated with the contacts of public administration bodies, stress associated with health condition, stress associated with parenting, financial stress, stress associated with work, ecological stress, marital stress, problems associated with taking care of older people, stress associated with life events, such as assault, burglary, or arrest), psychosomatic symptoms (the measurement of distress treated as a general measurement of health conditions), strategies of coping with stress, evaluation of contacts with the health care system, personal finances (including: personal income, insurance and retirement security), system of values, risk seeking, lifestyle and individual behaviors and habits (such as smoking, the overuse of alcohol, the use of drugs, or religious practices), civic attitudes and behaviors, social support, general evaluation of the transformation process and its influence upon the lives of the respondents, use of modern communication technologies - computers and the Internet, mobile phones, etc, situation on the labor market and professional career.
* The two categories are not entirely distinct and separable. Thus when describing living conditions, we also used subjective evaluation scales, and in the part on the quality of life, we asked not only for opinions, but were also interested in behaviors (such as smoking, overuse of alcohol) and objective events (such as the death of a loved one or the renovation of an apartment/house).

Unit of Analysis


Sample design

Type of the sample applied in the Study

In the proposed panel method, applied in the research, the observed panel sample of households (that is, households, which participated in the previous wave) is a certain dynamically changing section of the population of the Polish households. Thus, it was assumed that the panel sample of households would not be complemented during the subsequent waves if the households from the panel sample die out naturally or refuse to participate in the research project any further. The first of these situations is treated as a natural dying out of part of the population of households. In the second case, to make sure that the decrease in the number of household members does not influence the assessment of the dynamics of changes in phenomena and processes, we proposed to apply the appropriate system of weighing the results. A dynamic treatment of the panel sample requires not only the initial defining of the sample of households (the so- called panel sample of households) and their members (the so-called panel sample of persons), but also establishing the rules of treatment of these research units in the subsequent waves.

Geographic coverage of the sample

Lower age cut-off for the sample0
Upper age cut-off for the samplebrak

Data collection methods were used for the study

"face-to-face" interview

The total number of starting or issued names/addresses and the total number of successfully completed

starting or issued names/addresses
sucessfully completed


During the first wave, conducted in March 2000, 3005 households (with 9,995 members) and 6,625 accessible adult household members were examined. The second wave, conducted in March 2003, encompassed 3,953 households (including 2389 from the first wave – 79.5 percent) with 1,3696 members and 9,588 persons aged 16 or more filled out the individual questionnaire (including respectively: 8,170 – 81.7 percent and 4,718 – 71.2 percent from the first wave and, respectively, 458 and 202 new persons, who joined the households examined in year 2000). In the third wave, conducted in March 2005, it was assumed that all households which had participated in the second panel wave would be examined, as well as all households to which members of households from the initial panel sample of households had transferred5 . It was also decided that individual questionnaires would be filled out by all members born no later than March 1990. As a result, 3,148 households, which had participated in the second wave, were introduced in the database (79.6 percent of households from the second wave). The database included information on 9,979 members of the households which we had information on from year 2003 (72.9 percent of persons from the second wave), on 537 new members of these households and on 6,388 individual respondents who had filled out the questionnaire in 2003 (66.6 percent of all individual respondents from the second wave) and 231 new individual respondents from households examined in 2003 (these were mainly persons, who turned 16 between the second and the third wave). Additionally, it was decided that 900 new households and their members would be included in the research. In order to reach the assumed number of 900 new households in the third panel wave, a supplementary 900- element basic sample was drawn, as well as a reserve sample of the same structure and numbers. 762 new households were included in the database with 2,351 members and 1,572 individual respondents. In total, in the database for the third wave, there were 3,910 households with 1,2866 members and 8,821 individual respondents. In 2007, 5,532 households were examined with 18,021 members and individually 12,641 members of these households aged 16 or more. Out of the sample from 2005, it was possible to examine 2,760 households (70.6 percent) with 8,905 of the same members (69.2 percent) and 5,591 of the same individual respondents (63.4 percent) and 109 households established by members of households examined in 2005 with 294 members and 207 individual respondents. In the panel sample of 2005, 883 new members and 452 individual respondents were added. From the new sample of 3,000 households drawn in 2007, research was conducted in 2,663 households with 8,822 members and with 6,844 individual respondents aged 16 or more. From the original sample in the first wave, after seven years, in 2007, it was possible to conduct research in 1,438 households (47.9 percent) with 4,526 of the same members (45.3 percent) and with 2,590 of the same individual respondents (39.1 percent). In total, in all four waves, 8,076 households were examined with 27,305 members and 20,312 individual respondents. Households were drawn for research using the two-stage stratified sampling method. Before the sampling, households were stratified by voivodship, and then, within voivodships, according to the class of their place of residence, taking into consideration large towns (more than 100 thousand inhabitants), small towns (less than 100 thousand inhabitants) and rural areas. The first stage sampling units in the urban strata in each voivodship were statistical regions (comprising at least 250 houses or apartments), and in rural strata – statistical districts. During the second stage, pairs of dwellings were drawn systematically from a randomly generated list of dwellings, independently within each stratum created during the first stage. During the first stage of the study (in the year 2000), a sampling of the same number of households from each voivodship was applied in order to obtain a relatively large number of households, also within voivodships characterized by a relatively small number of households. It was assumed that the estimates of parameters for Poland in general would be obtained as the weighted averages based upon data for each voivodship. During the second and third stage of research (2003 and 2005), the number of households drawn for the sample in each voivodship was directly proportional to the share of the number of households in the overall number of households in the country, that is, within the general population. In the case of a refusal to participate in the research, households were replaced with those from the additional samples for the same statistical region (district).

Substitution or replacement of respondents


Post-stratification weight


Factors considered at construction of the post-stratified weighting factor

Weighting or post-stratification strategy used

Cross-sectional weights
In order to make the data obtained during the research representative, both for research conducted in 2007 and for the previous years on a national scale and for individual voivodships and the classes of places of residence, it was weighted. The values of analytical weights depended upon the differences between the frequency of shares of the examined households in accordance with classification profiles obtained in the total classification according to voivodship and 3 classes of place of residence and the real frequency of these shares in the general population, resulting from the sampling frame. On the other hand, weights of persons resulted from differences between the frequency of shares of the examined persons in the total classification according to voivodship, place of residence being an urban or a rural environment, age and gender, and the real structure of these shares in the general population obtained on the basis of the last General National Census of 2002. Two separate weights of persons were established: 1) for all members of the examined households and 2) for individual respondents from these households. This method allowed us to reach the assumed sample numbers and to keep it representative on the national scale and in accordance with the differentiated classification cross-sections.

Longitudinal weights
Longitudinal weights are aimed at keeping the sample representative (both the sample of households and persons) throughout the entire panel duration (Ernst, 1989). In the research, the basic rule assumed was observation throughout the subsequent waves of the panel of the same initial panel sample of persons. In order to minimize the influence on the comparison results as the sample was decreasing due to the outflow of the examined persons, the starting weights ascribed to these persons are appropriately adjusted, using the characteristics of persons and households. Basing upon the longitudinal weights of persons belonging to the panel sample, longitudinal weights are estimated for households included in the research, as well as for persons not belonging to the initial panel sample of persons (separately for all members of the examined households and for individual respondents).

Description of sample design

Attached to deposited documentation


Start and end dates of fieldwork

Start date--2000
End date--2007

Interviews back-checked (e.g. supervisor checks later whether interview was conducted

Yes - approximate proportion 100 %

Other information about the study

Pattern for data quotation

The Council for Social Monitoring, Social Diagnosis 2000-2007, Objective and Subjective Quality of Life in Poland, Warsaw 2007.

Data distribution

Data use restrictions

Dane ogólnodostępne

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