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San Diego Wisdom Scale successfully abbreviated to just 7 questions

An abbreviated, seven-item scale can help determine, with high validity, a person’s level of wisdom, a potentially modifiable personality trait that has been shown to have a strong association to well-being, report researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

The study’s researchers had previously developed the 28-item San Diego Wisdom Scale (SD-WISE-28), which has been used in large national and international studies, biological research and clinical trials to evaluate wisdom.

But in a study published in International Psychogeriatrics, researchers found that a shortened seven-item version (SD-WISE-7 or Jeste-Thomas Wisdom Index), was comparable and reliable.

“Wisdom measures are increasingly being used to study factors that impact mental health and optimal ageing. We wanted to test if a list of only seven items could provide valuable information to test wisdom,” said senior author Dr Dilip Jeste, senior associate dean for the Center of Healthy Aging and Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

Past studies have shown that wisdom comprises seven components: self-reflection, pro-social behaviours (such as empathy, compassion and altruism), emotional regulation, acceptance of diverse perspectives, decisiveness, social advising, (such as giving rational and helpful advice to others), and spirituality.

The latest study surveyed 2,093 participants, ages 20 to 82, through the online crowdsourcing platform Amazon Mechanical Turk.

The seven statements, selected from SD-WISE-28, relate to the seven components of wisdom and are rated on a 1 to 5 scale, from strongly disagree to strongly agree. Examples of the statements include: “I remain calm under pressure” and “I avoid situations where I know my help will be needed”.

“Shorter doesn't mean less valid,” said Jeste. “We selected the right types of questions to get important information that not only contributes to the advancement of science but also supports our previous data that wisdom correlates with health and longevity.”

Additionally, the SD-WISE-7 was found to strongly and positively correlate with resilience, happiness and mental well-being, and strongly and negatively correlate with loneliness, depression and anxiety.

“There are evidence-based interventions to increase levels of specific components of wisdom, which would help reduce loneliness and promote overall well-being,” said Jeste.

“Just as the COVID-19 vaccine protects us from the novel coronavirus, wisdom can aid in protecting us from loneliness. Thus, we can potentially help end a behavioural pandemic of loneliness, suicides and opioid abuse that has been going on for the past 20 years.”

Next steps include genetic, biological, psychosocial and cultural studies of large numbers of diverse populations to assess wisdom, as well as various factors related to mental, physical and cognitive health in people across the lifespan.

“We need wisdom for surviving and thriving in life. Now, we have a list of questions that take less than a couple of minutes to answer, which can be put into clinical practice to try to help individuals,” said Jeste.

Study details:
Abbreviated San Diego Wisdom Scale (SD-WISE-7) and Jeste-Thomas Wisdom Index (JTWI).

Michael L. Thomas, Barton W. Palmer, Ellen E. Lee, Jinyuan Liu, Rebecca Daly, Xin M. Tu, Dilip V. Jeste.

Published in International Psychogeriatrics on 3 December 2021


Wisdom is a personality trait comprising seven components: self-reflection, pro-social behaviors, emotional regulation, acceptance of diverse perspectives, decisiveness, social advising, and spirituality. Wisdom, a potentially modifiable trait, is strongly associated with well-being. We have published a validated 28-item San Diego Wisdom Scale, the SD-WISE-28. Brief scales are necessary for use in large population-based studies and in clinical practice. The present study aimed to create an abbreviated 7-item version of the SD-WISE.

Participants included 2093 people, aged 20-82 years, recruited and surveyed through the online crowdsourcing platform Amazon Mechanical Turk. The participants’ mean age was 46 years, with 55% women. Participants completed the SD-WISE-28 as well as validation scales for various positive and negative constructs. Psychometric analyses (factor analysis and item response theory) were used to select one item from each of the seven SD-WISE-28 subscales.

We selected a combination of items that produced acceptable unidimensional model fit and good reliability (ω = 0.74). Item statistics suggested that all seven items were strong indicators of wisdom, although the association was weakest for spirituality. Analyses indicated that the 28-item and 7-item SD-WISE are both very highly correlated (r = 0.92) and produce a nearly identical pattern of correlations with demographic and validity variables.

The SD-WISE-7, and its derived Jeste-Thomas Wisdom Index (JTWI) score, balances reliability and brevity for research applications.


International Psychogeriatrics article – Abbreviated San Diego Wisdom Scale (SD-WISE-7) and Jeste-Thomas Wisdom Index (JTWI) (Open access)


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