The Five Ways to Wellbeing are a set of evidence-based actions which promote people’s wellbeing. Whilst not claiming to be the biggest determinants of wellbeing, it’s a set of simple things individuals can do in their everyday lives. They were developed by the New Economics Foundation and based on the findings of the 2008 Government Office for Science Foresight report on Mental Capital and Wellbeing that aimed to develop a long term vision for maximising wellbeing in the UK.
- Be Active
- Take Notice
- Keep Learning
The 5 ways to wellbeing are integral to many activities that we care about and enjoy. Since their publication, the five ways have had an enormous reach, being used as evaluation frameworks, in school curriculums and by local authorities . They have formed the basis to specific interventions to improve wellbeing that we will be reviewing as part of our community wellbeing programme.
In 2012, the European Social Survey was the first major survey to include questions directly on the five ways to wellbeing, allowing exploration of patterns of five ways behaviours across Europe for the first time.
The Making Wellbeing Count for Policy research by Cambridge University, City University and the New Economics Foundation looked at this rich survey data and found:
- People in the UK have low levels of participation in the five ways to wellbeing, compared to peer countries such as France and Germany particularly on Take Notice. With the exception of those aged 65 and over.
- Having children seems to limit people’s opportunities to take notice in the UK in ways that do not apply in the rest of Europe.
- People of working age in the UK connect less than their peers in the rest of Europe, though this deficit also applies to those not in employment, suggesting that it cannot be explained purely in terms of working patterns.
- Those in the UK aged 25-64 were much less likely to connect than their peers in other countries
- Young women (15 – 24), parents, and people doing housework or childcare in the UK reported very low rates on Take Notice (whether people take notice and appreciate their surroundings). This finding was not replicated across Europe, suggesting there may be particular barriers in the UK for these population groups which may be amenable to policy.
The figures show the UK’s levels of five ways participation ‘Connect’ compared to other countries. Countries with a GDP per capita of below $30,000 are shaded in lighter blue. Given that the UK has a GDP per capita of almost $40,000 one would expect it to achieve higher participation in five ways than those countries.
Previous research has found that generally, in the UK:
- Males are more likely to be active, whereas females are more likely to give and connect.
- People from lower socio-economic groups are less likely to be active, give and keep learning.
- The older people are, the less likely they are to keep learning and be active.
- However, for both Connect and Give, the trend follows a U curve, with people aged 16-25 and 65-74 most likely to engage in these activities.
- People with qualifications are more likely to keep learning and give.