New ONS data: Life in the UK 2016 measures of national wellbeing update

The Office of National Statistics has released Life in the UK 2016, a snapshot of life today across the 10 domains and 41 measures of national wellbeing.

WellbeingwheelOrganised into 10 domains, such as Health, Where we live, Education and skills and Natural environment, the report highlights ‘how we are doing’ as individuals and as a nation and how sustainable this is for the future. The measures include both objective data (for example, healthy life expectancy) and subjective data (for example, satisfaction with health) in order to provide a more complete view of the nation than measures such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) can do alone.

→Assessment of Change on Wellbeing wheel


Of the 41 measures, assessments of change show that 17 have improved while 8 have deteriorated and 11 have stayed the same over the 3 year period.

How are we doing as a nation?

Things which have got better:

  • personal finances:  real median household income and net national disposable income have both risen and the unemployment rate has fallen
  • healthy life expectancy continues to rise for both men and women,
  • the number of crimes against the person has fallen
  • more of us turned out to vote at the last general election than the previous one.
  • environmental measures. Greenhouse gas emissions have fallen, the extent of areas designated as ‘protected’ has grown and a growing proportion of us accessed the natural environment during the 3 year period examined. More energy has been consumed from renewable sources in the last year than in previous years and recycling rates have risen

And worse:

  • The proportions satisfied with their health, accommodation, household income and leisure time have all fallen over the three year period
  • Population mental wellbeing scores fell over the three year period as did the proportion who had a spouse or partner, family member or friend to rely on if they had a serious problem.
  • Adult participation in sport has also fallen.

How are we doing as individuals?

Life in the UK shows an improvement 70677fe0across all 4 measures of personal wellbeing, this suggests that more people in the UK are feeling positive about their lives than in the financial year ending 2014.

Between 2011/12 and 2014/5 the rates of those reporting low wellbeing has dropped whilst the numbers reporting high wellbeing have increased.

→Personal wellbeing in the UK 2014/15 statistical bulletin


→ Subjective wellbeing data : broken down by a range of socio-demographic characteristics and by local areas

How to add subjective WB to evaluations

→Life in the UK  full update

Updated datasets:

→National wellbeing measures dataset

→Children’s wellbeing dataset

→Similar approach taken in Scotland since 2008 with their National Performance Framework

What’s wellbeing like in different jobs? new data, analysis and case study

Work matters to our wellbeing and we know that economic activity is one of the key drivers of life satisfaction. What about comparisons between those in work but in different occupations?

Job & Wellbeing Graphic March 16

The ONS personal wellbeing questions can capture different aspects of work on our lives. Not only do they cover our overall sense of satisfaction with our work but they also ask about sense of fulfillment – ‘worthwhile activities in life’ and ‘anxiety’ both of which we might expect to differ across different types of occupation.

We have taken 3 years of annual population survey data and computed personal wellbeing by standard occupation code. We have done this for 90 groups of occupations and for more detailed 369 individual occupations. By aggregating across three years of data we can get better estimates of wellbeing for these occupations – although even with such a large sample there are some jobs for which we can’t provide robust estimates (we have suppressed results with very low samples). The data is available for download and we have included sample sizes and standard deviations so that analysts can explore them in more detail. We have also included income data from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings against the same occupation codes to allow for comparisons between wellbeing and earnings. So there is lots to explore in this data.

→ Download jobs data 

What are some of the headline results?

Well perhaps no surprise that Chief Execs and Senior Officials consistently come out as having among the highest levels of well-being. However those in health, welfare, teaching, agriculture and sports report being the most fulfilled – with the highest levels of ‘worthwhile activities’ in life. Hairdressers report high levels of happiness!

And those in occupations reporting lower wellbeing and higher anxiety?

Those in sales related occupations report lower life satisfaction and worthwhile. Legal Associate Professionals report high anxiety. Interesting that Teaching and Educational Professionals report among the highest levels of ‘Worthwhile’ but also higher levels of anxiety. The Anxiety question can capture positive and negative aspects of anxiety and there are other examples where we have seen high positive wellbeing coexist with higher levels of anxiety.

Download the data and explore it for yourself. Take care not to over interpret the results though and make use of the sample sizes and standard deviations to understand the robustness of the different estimates.

→ Download and explore the jobs & wellbeing data 

Update July 16: the data is now available in a prototype app  and we’ll happily make the source code available→contact us

→Application of data pioneer case study

Skills Route is an innovative application of this data, skillsrouteits the first portal to bring together all the options for young people side by side.

→Skills Route:  Using wellbeing data to help young people make more balanced decisions.

World Happiness Report 2016 summary findings

The fourth edition of the World Happiness Report has been published this week by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network with a 2016 special update.160311-whr-2016-happy-ppl-opt

The growing interest in the report reflects growth across the world in using subjective wellbeing and happiness as primary indicators of the quality of human development as many governments and organisations are using wellbeing research to develop policies for improving lives.

“Measuring self-reported happiness and achieving well-being should be on every nation’s agenda as they begin to pursue the Sustainable Development Goals,”

 Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University

The report is co-edited by Professor Richard Layard (who heads up our Cross Cutting evidence team).  The report uses ‘happiness’ and ‘subjective wellbeing’ interchangeably. It ranks 157 countries by their happiness levels:


This year, for the first time, the World Happiness Report also gives a special role to the measurement and consequences of inequality in the distribution of wellbeing among countries and regions.

What’s important for high wellbeing?

Three quarters of the difference in wellbeing between the top 10 and bottom 10 countries and regions can be explained by:

  1. Social support so that you have friends and family to count on in times of trouble
  2. Freedom to choose what you do in life
  3. Generosity and how much people donate to charity
  4. Absence of corruption in business and government
  5. GDP
  6. Healthy life expectancy

These don’t explain everything, for example with this data we are not yet able to understand how much our wellbeing is impacted by having a sense of purpose and feeling what you do in life is worthwhile.  They did find that the experience of positive emotion matters more to our overall wellbeing, measured by life satisfaction, than the absence of negative emotions although both are important.

What supports national resilience? 

The report also looks at changes in wellbeing over time, looking at the impact of the recession by comparing data from 2005/7 and 2013/15.  The biggest drops in wellbeing are more than would be expected from changes to economic situation alone.

Resilience, that enables a positive response to a crisis and increases positive emotion, looks like it comes from having a caring and effective community through:

  • strength of social fabric
  • levels of trust
  • institutional quality
  • generosity
  • shared purpose

Wellbeing in the UKWHRpt 16

The World Happiness Reports give an understanding of wellbeing at a national level.  The UK is:

  • 23rd of 157 countries in the world happiness rankings 2013-15
  • 85th of 126 countries in our change in happiness from 2005-7 to 2013-15
  • 46th of 157 countries in inequalities of wellbeing in 2012-15

The What Works Centre for Wellbeing is focused on understanding what governments, business, communities and individuals can do to improve wellbeing at a policy and practice level in the UK.

You can see similar information for the whole of the UK measured by the Office for National Statistics.

→New e-course on wellbeing in policy and practice in the UK 

New e-course: Introduction to wellbeing in policy and practice

Do you want to understand the recent surge in interest in wellbeing and how  wellbeing is defined and measured?

Our short online course will provide an introduction to wellbeing measurement in policy and practice.  Be introduced to a few practical steps you can take to consider wellbeing in your work.

➡ go to course now

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Wellbeing strategies in the workplace

This post looks at what companies could be doing through their wellbeing strategies and highlights approaches to tackling three key issues which cause problems at work….. 

  1. Our Chair, Dr Paul Litchfield recently spoke at the University of Manchester Alliance Business School‘s first Vital Topic lecture of 2016 on Building Mental Resilience.  He said

“we need to think beyond the health of individuals in the workplace to address wider wellbeing issues.  That means encouraging employers to organise work in a way that promotes the health and happiness of their people. Work that is fulfilling and has purpose drives good health for employees and profitability for companies – a real win/win.  Occupational health schemes that only focus on traditional activities like health surveillance and sickness absence management are failing the firms that pay for them and the employees they serve.  We need to become advocates for wellbeing in the workplace and influence the way organisations are managed – that’s tough but it’s what we need to do if we are to remain relevant in the decades to come.”

Here, Paul and Oliver Heath, founder of architectural practice Heath Design talk about what companies need to do:

We have  found that many different people in the UK, including managers, see job quality as integral to promoting wellbeing. That is secure and interesting jobs with decent pay and that provide opportunities for taking decisions, using skills and working with others.

 → Public dialogue and consultation findings summary 

We need to test different approaches….  and we’re happy to help

→ Evaluating wellbeing impact guidance  

→contact us  

Reposted from The University of Manchester Alliance Business School site

2. HSE report on Stress, mental health & musculoskeletal health at work 

picjumbo.com_HNCK1218Musculoskeletal, mental health and stress complaints are some of the most frequently reported health complaints in the population. These account for a large proportion of sickness absence, loss of productivity, care-seeking and health-related benefit claims.

Prof Kevin Daniels, lead investigator of our Work and Learning team has co-authored a new report from the Health and Safety Executive  which outlines an approach to managing musculoskeletal, mental health and stress complaints in the workplace.

The intention of the report is to help those with specialised interests in health at work to minimise the occurrence of such work-based common health problems and look to reduce avoidable sickness absence, healthcare use and long-term disability.

The report provides information on:

  • the importance of managing common health complaints
  • the features of good jobs that can protect against common health complaints
  • evidence-based guidance for occupational health and human resources specialists for developing processes to manage common health complaints.

→The full report from HSE 




Culture and sport public dialogues

Our public dialogues looked a the impact of drummingculture and sport on our wellbeing.

Here, participants from London share their thoughts in the excitement of culture and sport  

Culture and sport have an impact on our wellbeing by providing fun activities, enjoyment, friendship and a feeling of belonging.

Cultural and sporting activities are felt to be at the heart of quality of life, part of our way of life and core to social interactions. We learn, we take notice, we get active, we connect and we give. Most of all we develop our interests and with it our initiative and confidence.

  • We understand Culture  very broadly sport inspiredand beyond traditional arts and music
  • Spectating, participating and volunteering are all  equally valued.
  • Culture and sport help us through difficult times

→ See summary of the findings

→ Download full Culture and sport public dialogue report 

Public dialogues bring together members of the public and policy makers to discuss wellbeing and understand what matters to people.We spoke to a range of policy makers on:what works

  • why it’s important to talk about wellbeing
  • why are we talking about work and learning
  • about the value the centre can have across the UK
  • importance of dialogues with the public

→this week is National Museums and wellbeing week