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Update on the ONS Measuring National Well-being programme

Released: 07 February 2012 Download PDF

The second phase of consultation in the Office for National Statistics programme to measure the nation’s well-being has come to a close.

Nearly 1,800 people responded to ONS's consultation on a set of draft domains and headline measures of national well-being. These cover assessing our quality of life and the state of the natural environment, as well as the performance of the economy and people’s assessment of their own well-being.

The ten domains were based on findings from existing research, international initiatives and ONS's earlier national debate on 'What matters to you?' During that debate people across the UK gave their views on the things that matter to them most in life, for their individual well-being and for measuring the well-being of the UK.

To accompany people’s own assessment of their well-being (individual or subjective well-being), themes such as health, personal relationships, job satisfaction and economic security emerged. These lend themselves to the development of these domains or ‘areas’ within which potentially a very large set of measures could be chosen. The proposed measures range from life satisfaction to crime rate; satisfaction with your spouse or partner to household wealth.

During the latest phase of consultation, which was launched on 31 October 2011, ONS staff have presented at conferences, contributed to newsletters targeted at interested groups and consulted with those who had expressed an interest in well-being, including policy makers and academics. The consultation was publicised and available on the ONS website.

ONS is now reviewing all the feedback they have received to this consultation with an aim to publishing its initial findings later this month. These are the first steps in an exciting long term programme that marks a determined strategy to build on previous research in acknowledging and measuring the wider impact and context of societal progress.

Domains and headline measures are being developed as part of the Measuring National Well-being programme. ONS launched the programme in November 2010, with the aim to develop and publish an accepted and trusted set of National Statistics which help people to understand and monitor national well-being.

It is increasingly understood that traditional economic measures of progress are necessary but not sufficient to reflect a nation's overall progress or well-being. There are important societal and environmental issues that need to be considered when measuring progress.

There has been increasing interest in the UK and around the world in using wider measures of well-being to monitor progress and evaluate policy, to focus on quality of life and the environment, as well as economic growth, in assessing progress. The programme will provide evidence to help policy makers and others find out what will really improve lives.

Background notes

  1. The next update on the Measuring National Well-being programme will be on 28 February. This will present:
    • an initial response to the consultation on domains and headline measures of national well-being;
    • analysis of experimental subjective well-being data from the Annual Population Survey (APS), the largest constituent survey of the Integrated Household Survey (IHS), with results from questions asked during Apr-Sept 2011;
    • linking up with other aspects of the programme recently released, including estimates of the human capital of the UK, and the UK environmental accounts.
  2. On 1 December 2011 an initial investigation into subjective well-being from the OPN survey was released. This provided experimental estimates of responses to subjective well-being questions that were asked in the Opinions Survey in 2011.
  3. The first experimental ‘dashboard’ of national well-being measures, including annual experimental estimates of subjective well-being derived from the IHS, will be published in July 2012.
  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. Further information on the Measuring National Well-being programme.
  7. Follow us on or join us at
  8. View the latest podcasts on well-being at
  9. Media contact:
    Lisa Davies 01633 455957 Media Relations Team 0845 6041858
    Emergency on-call 07867 906553
  10. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting or from the Media Relations Office email:

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