This week the Office of National Statistics released their first annual accounts of wellbeing. It’s the first time that the government has actively and consistently attempted to measure the wellbeing of British citizens. I was one of the 34,000 people who contributed to the research behind it, so I’ve been curious to see how it turned out. From an initial reading, it looks very useful.
Although it’s been caricatured as a measure of happiness in the media, reported happiness is just one of forty different measures in the report. Others include job satisfaction, fear of crime, health, access to green space, financial security, education, and political engagement. The list is quite impressive, and it’s an intriguing snapshot of where we are and how we’re doing as a nation. If you’ve got five minutes, have a scroll through the headline figures on the interactive wheel here or check out the data by region here.
There are some interesting points to discover here. The government will be pleased to see that 71% of people consider themselves to be fairly happy and satisfied. They should be rather alarmed to read that just 21% of people trust the national government – that suggests a deep problem with our democracy. Other things we could follow up on could include leisure time, with 62% of people saying they were satisfied they had enough. 18% of us show some form of mental health problem, which also seems very high to me, and levels of anxiety are at almost 40%. These are all things we should be monitoring and exploring in more detail.
The wellbeing accounts are not intended to replace GDP, but to complement it. “Traditional measures of progress such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) have long been recognised as an incomplete picture of the state of the nation” says the ONS. “Other economic, social and environmental measures are needed alongside GDP to provide a complete picture of how society is doing.”
Having created it, I hope the government will refer to the wellbeing accounts from time to time.
- You can read the full report here.