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Measuring National Well-being Programme: The Independent, 5 March 2012

 Letter for publication in response to an article in The Independent on 5 March 2012


I am writing in response to Katy Guest's article 'Happiness is... not being told about the latest stupid survey' (Independent, 5 March 2012) .

The aim of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Measuring National Well-being Programme is to develop and publish an accepted and trusted set of National Statistics to help people understand and monitor how the UK is doing, both in terms of current well-being and longer term sustainability. It is increasingly understood that traditional economic measures of progress such as GDP are necessary, but not sufficient to reflect a nation's overall well-being. We also need to include social and environmental issues, to see what has been called the triple bottom line. After consultation we are bringing together measures for these dimensions, including measures of quality of life, life expectancy, employment and crime.

One part of the programme is to collect robust survey data capturing individual assessments of people's own well-being. From April 2011 ONS introduced four subjective well-being questions in our household surveys. On 28 February we published provisional results from a representative sample of 80,000 adults aged 16 and over, surveyed between April to September 2011. This is to give users a feel for the kind of data we are collecting, and to seek feedback on how to analyse and present subjective well-being results.

Statistics are the bedrock of democracy. The ONS National Well-being Programme should enable people to better understand the economic, social and environmental position of the UK. The ONS measures will only be of value if they help people make decisions about their own lives, such as where to live or what career to choose, and if they help governments and businesses make policies, products and services to improve the well-being of the nation.

Yours faithfully,

Paul Allin

Measuring National Well-being Programme Director,

Office for National Statistics

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