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Measuring well-being initiative highlights work-life balance

Released: 29 March 2012 Download PDF

Do we live to work or work to live? Getting the right balance between work and leisure is important in determining the well-being of the nation.

This is the issue explored in the latest findings from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Measuring National Well-being programme, outlined today in a web article What we do.

The article includes an examination of work and leisure activities and the concept of obtaining the best possible lifestyle balance for each individual. These were often raised during the nationwide debate on national well-being. The debate identified the things that matter to UK citizens and which they want to see reflected in policy and in business and individual decisions.

Key points in the research published today by ONS include:

• Almost one in two (48.4 per cent) of adults aged 16 and over in Great Britain  report a relatively low satisfaction with their work-life balance
• Approaching two in three (62.6 per cent) of all adults aged 16 and over respondents in the UK report that they are somewhat, mostly or completely satisfied with the amount of leisure time they had
• Just over half (54.1 per cent) of adults aged 16 or over in England had participated in some type of sport or physical activity in the four weeks before they were interviewed in the DCMS Taking Part survey.

The first phase of the ONS programme was the national debate. ONS held 175 events, involving around 7,250 people. In total, including on-line, the debate generated 34,000 responses, some of which were from organisations and groups representing thousands more. The debate helped ONS identify the key areas that matter most to the public, such as health, education and employment.  This was used to produce the first set of domains and measures for national well-being published for consultation between October 2011 and January 2012. These will be improved progressively and consulted upon, drawing on regular updates on the subjective well-being survey results and analyses of domains of well-being, such as that published today.

What we do illustrates the methodology behind the ONS Measuring National Well-being programme, using existing research and carrying out new and innovative research to get to people’s assessment of their own well-being and what matters to them. This is designed to paint a national picture at this stage, with data due to become available for local areas in July, using the large sample gathered over the first twelve months of ONS’s survey work. The ONS findings could raise issues for citizens, local authorities, government and businesses to consider, for example around care, leisure facilities and commuting, all of which appear to impact on well-being.

Full details can be found in the Measuring National Well-being - What we do article.

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. On 31 October ONS started a consultation on the proposed domains and headline indicators for measuring national well-being. The consultation closed on 23 January.
  3. The first experimental ‘dashboard’ of national well-being measures, including annual experimental estimates of subjective well-being derived from the APS, 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 (i.e. £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 Twitter:, Facebook: and on the ONS Youtube channel at
  8. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available from the media office. 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.
    © Crown copyright 2012.

  9. Media contact:
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    Emergency on-call    07867 906553

    Statistical contact:
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  10. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting or from the Media Relations Office email:

Content from the Office for National Statistics.
© Crown Copyright applies unless otherwise stated.