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What matters most to personal well-being?

Released: 30 May 2013 Download PDF

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) today publishes further analysis and tools to aid the understanding and monitoring of National Well-being.

In a report entitled ‘What matters most to personal well-being?’ the question of what is most important to people’s own views about their own well-being is examined.

Some key findings from the report include:

• Self-reported health had the strongest association with personal well-being. For example, people reporting to be in very bad health had much lower personal well-being on average than those who said they were in good health.
• Employment status was the second strongest relationship. People who were unemployed had lower personal well-being than those who were employed.
• Third was relationship status, with people who were married/in a civil partnership having better personal well-being on average than those who were cohabiting, single, divorced or widowed.
• ‘Choice’ and ‘control’ have emerged as important themes. For example, it is not just about having a job that is important to personal well-being, but also how content people are with that job situation. Permanent employees who wanted an additional or alternative job had lower personal well-being on average than those who did not want an additional or alternative job.

Gaining an understanding of what influences personal well-being is an important aspect of national well-being, but is only part of a broader picture that draws on a range of economic, social and environmental statistics to show how the country is doing.

In light of this, ONS also updates today the innovative and popular ‘National Well-being Wheel of Measures’ as well as an expanded range of interactive graphs.

Following user feedback, the Well-being Wheel has been refined and now includes measures covering arts and culture; sport; satisfaction with accommodation; access to key services; and recycling. It also contains updated statistics to reflect more recent data being made available.

Measuring National Wellbeing is a long-term statistical development programme. It aims to put people at the heart of official statistics so that we measure what matters, to help people and policy makers make better decisions about what is important.

The next set of results on Personal Well-being from the 2012/13 Annual Population Survey will be published in July 2013. In the Autumn an improved Well-being Wheel will be released giving a better indication of changes in national well-being.

Background notes

  1. 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.
  2. ‘What matters most to Personal Well-being?’ describes the results of a regression analysis – a statistical technique which analyses variation by specific characteristics and circumstances of individuals while holding all other characteristics equal. It allows for a better understanding of what matters most than just looking at two variables at a time. Although regression analysis shows the nature, size and strength of relationship between variables it is not possible to say with certainty that the different factors cause greater or lesser personal well-being.

  3. ONS added experimental personal well-being questions to the Annual Population Survey in April 2011 and the first annual results were published on 24 July 2012 in a report entitled ‘First Annual ONS Experimental Subjective Well-being results’. The analysis in today’s report on personal (or subjective) well-being uses the same data from the Annual Population Survey collected between April 2011 and March 2012.

  4. ONS has consulted widely on the domains and measures used to monitor national well-being. A summary of consultation responses was first released on 28 February 2012 and on 24 July 2012 a more detailed response and a revised set of domains and measures was published based on feedback. In November 2012 ‘Measuring National Well-being: Life in the UK 2012 was published, providing a picture of ‘how society is doing’.
  5. ONS also publish today an updated ‘National Well-being Wheel of Measures’ and expanded ‘National Well-being Interactive Graphs’ as well as an article which outlines the review of domains and measures of well-being and criteria used to select them

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  8. 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
  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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