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Progress in Measuring National Well-being outlined

Released: 24 July 2012 Download PDF

ONS publishes today three articles reporting progress in the Measuring National Well-being programme: Where we live; Health; and Subjective Well-being. In addition, ONS releases an article setting out the domains and measures which will be henceforth used for assessing well-being, based on extensive consultation summarised in an associated report, which is also published.

Glenn Everett, Programme Director for Measuring National Well-being Programme said:
“By examining and analysing both objective statistics as well as subjective information, a more complete picture of National Well-being can be formed. Understanding people's views of well-being is an important addition to existing Official Statistics and has potential uses in the policy making process and to aid other decision making.” 

A good example of this is provided by the first annual experimental subjective well-being results. These show that 45 per cent of unemployed people rated their ‘life satisfaction’ as below 7 out of 10. This is over twice as much than for employed people, 20 per cent of whom described their life satisfaction as below 7 out of 10. This illustrates additional effects of unemployment on people, over and above material dimensions that can be measured objectively.

ONS have considered 1,800 responses to the consultation on proposed domains and headline measures and have issued a revised set of measures for monitoring National Well-being. Today’s release includes interactive tools that allow local area mapping and distribution analysis of the subjective well-being data.

This is a long term development project with more results to come in November 2012, including a 'state of the nation' report 2 years on from the launch of the programme. 

‘Where we live’ highlights that a higher proportion of adults who owned their own property, either outright or with a mortgage, reported a medium/high level of life satisfaction (around 8 out of 10) than those with other tenures (around two thirds or 68%).

During the national debate about Measuring National Well-being the most common response from people about what affected their well-being was health. Those that report that they have health problems do not always report low levels of life satisfaction: about two in five report a medium or high level of life satisfaction. Similarly those who report good health do not always report high levels of life satisfaction: about 1 in 5 reports a low or very low level of satisfaction with their lives.

The articles published today are: Measuring Subjective Well-being in the UK - First Annual ONS Experimental Subjective Well-being Results ; Measuring National Well-being - Where we Live; Measuring National Well-being – Health; Measuring National Well-being - Summary of Proposed Domains and Measures; and Report on the consultation on proposed domains and measures.

There is also an interactive tool for comparing subjective well-being of residents in specific areas in the UK. These include regions and countries within the UK and information about local authority areas within English regions, Scotland and Wales ( In addition there is a map which compares information about local authority areas in England, Wales and Scotland (

Background notes

  1. Experimental statistics are those which are in the testing phase, are not yet fully developed and have not been submitted for assessment to the UK Statistics Authority. They are published to involve users at an early stage in their development.

  2. The Measuring National Well-being programme was launched in November 2010 to provide a fuller understanding of how society is doing than economic measures, such as GDP. It started with a three month national debate on ‘What matters to you?’ to improve understanding of what should be included in measures of the nation’s well-being. Measuring What Matters: National Statistician's Reflections on the National Debate on Measuring National Well-being was published in July 2011.
  3. On 31 October ONS started a consultation on the proposed domains and headline indicators for measuring national well-being. A summary of responses was released on the 28th February. Today’s report provides a more detailed response and a revised set of domains and measures based on feedback received.
  4. ONS was allocated £2m per annum for the four years 2011/12 to 2014/15 from the Spending Review in 2010. This covers all aspects of the measuring national well-being programme, including survey work on individual well-being and the development, presentation and reporting on broader indicators of 'how the UK is doing'.  The measuring national well-being programme covers a wide range of economic, social and environmental statistics.

  5. The programme costs are mainly staff costs working across the full range of the programme. Of the £2m around a quarter each year (ie £500k) is the cost of survey field work, asking the four headline questions on subjective well-being of 200,000 people in the Integrated Household Survey, and asking these and more detailed question modules of 1,000 people a month in the Opinions Survey.
  6. Also launched today by Defra is a consultation on a new set of Sustainable Development Indicators and
  7. Follow us on or join us at
  8. View the latest podcasts on well-being at
  9. National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference
  10. Details of policy governing the release of new data are available from Media Relations Office


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