In 2010 the Prime Minister launched the National Wellbeing Programme to “start measuring our progress as a country, not just by how our economy is growing, but by how our lives are improving; not just by our standard of living, but by our quality of life”.
This debate led to the development and publication of a measurement framework comprising 10 domains and 38 measures of wellbeing – this includes the things that people have told us matter to them and to their quality of life.
There are objective measures of wellbeing, like life expectancy and levels of unemployment, and also subjective measures – how people actually feel about progress, including overall satisfaction with life and levels of anxiety. It is important to have a mix because objective measures, such as actual levels of crime, don’t always reflect the way people feel, for example, their fear of crime – and the differences can have important implications for policy.
The first annual Life in the UK report was published in November 2012 alongside an interactive wellbeing wheel of measures. It’s important to say that this is about neither replacing GDP nor creating a ‘happiness index’. The objective is to complement the more traditional economic measures used by policymakers and to provide an additional way to think about what we value and the progress we’re making as a society.
With the measurement programme progressing, we are very much focused on making use of the wealth of data that is emerging and understanding the implications for policy. Some of the papers in this section represent small, illustrative samples of analysis to highlight the broad relevance of subjective wellbeing in particular to policy areas across government. We also highlight papers from the Social Impacts Task Force (SITF) - analysts from across Whitehall and the devolved administrations with expertise and experience in analysis of social impacts including wellbeing. We include a paper on the wellbeing policy and analysis work of government departments developed with support from the SITF.
The Cabinet Office is also exploring how others are engaging with wellbeing - including individuals, communities, charities and local government. You can get in touch with the team at WellbeingEnquiries@cabinet-office.gsi.gov.uk.