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A UK Perspective of Measuring Subjective Well-being Glenn Everett Director of the Measuring National Well-being Programme 11 March 2014 www.ons.gov.uk/well-being.

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Presentation on theme: "A UK Perspective of Measuring Subjective Well-being Glenn Everett Director of the Measuring National Well-being Programme 11 March 2014 www.ons.gov.uk/well-being."— Presentation transcript:

1 A UK Perspective of Measuring Subjective Well-being Glenn Everett Director of the Measuring National Well-being Programme 11 March 2014

2 Background Traditional measures of progress such as GDP are increasingly considered an incomplete picture of the state of the nation. Additional economic, social and environmental measures are needed alongside GDP to provide a complete picture of how society is doing. UK’s Measuring National Well-being (MNW) Programme was launched in November Stiglitz et al “the time is ripe for our measurement system to shift emphasis from measuring economic production to measuring people’s well-being”.

3 Domains of National Well-being Sustainability Issues over time Equality/Fairness More contextual domains The Economy Governance Education and skills Natural Environment Factors directly affecting individual well- being Personal Finance Our relationshipsWhat we do Where we live Health Individual Well-Being People’s own Assessment of their own well-being (SWB)

4 UK’s Approach to Measuring National Well-being Using many existing sources (around 21) to populate the Domains. Added 4 questions on subjective well-being to household surveys. Findings analysed alongside other information to help understand impact on well-being.

5 ONS’ Four Subjective Well-being Questions 1.Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays? (Evaluative) 2.Overall, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile? (Eudemonic) 3.Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday? (Experience or affect - positive) 4.Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday? (Experience or affect - negative) All answered using a 0 to 10 scale where 0 is ‘not at all’ and 10 is ‘completely’

6 Overall change between 2011/12 & 2012/13

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10 Differences by age 45 to 54 rate life satisfaction, worthwhile and happiness levels lowest on average......and 65 to 79 age group highest. One reason for lower average for 80 & over could be loneliness.

11 Ethnicity Average life satisfaction highest amongst White and Indian people......but lowest for Black ethnic group.

12 What is important to Subjective Well-being? Latest findings from regression analysis of subjective well-being found: Self-reported health, employment status and relationship status most important aspects of subjective well-being. Higher earnings don’t necessarily lead to higher feelings of happiness but do increase people’s life satisfaction. People in higher occupations or higher qualifications more anxious than lower occupations or qualifications. Choice important – people working in a job that they are content with have higher life satisfaction than those wanting an additional or different job.

13 Policy Appraisal It is important new measures are used to improve the development, implementation and evaluation of policies In July 2011 the Treasury updated the guidance on cost-benefit analysis to include an approach that uses subjective well-being measurement. Social cost-benefit analysis seeks to express the full social costs and full social benefits of policies in monetary terms. Such estimates can inform options, analysis and business cases.

14 How is well-being data used? Dept of Health’s alcohol strategy against a consideration of national well-being. Civil Service People survey - insights into staff well-being help steer HR policies. Dept of Work & Pensions is assessing impact on the well-being of the very-long-term unemployed. Cabinet Office is evaluating the impact of National Citizen Service on the well-being of participants. Berkeley Homes is using well-being as part of their evaluation of planning proposals.

15 Strengths/Limitations Long-term development project – still learning – experimental outputs. Consider importance of distributions not just averages – miserable minority. Not a single measure – need both objective and subjective data. Supplements – not supplants to GDP and other indicators. Use for better targeting of scarce resources. Complex – no composite indicator Cost of surveys. More information:


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