Can we measure the wellbeing of a ‘community’?

annemarie_bagnallThis week we hear from Anne-Marie Bagnall, Reader at the School of Health & Community Studies and part of our Community Wellbeing evidence team. Anne-Marie explains the thinking behind our new scoping review of community wellbeing indicators.

Jump to the scoping review and table of indicators

Last month we shared our local authority indicators to help understand local needs for wellbeing data. Today, we’re sharing a range of indicators, frameworks and measures of community wellbeing that have been used by government agencies and NGOs in the UK over the last five years. You might be asking yourself: aren’t these the same thing? What’s the difference between measuring community wellbeing and overall wellbeing in a local area?

Although the UK government has been assessing wellbeing at the national level –  including economic performance, quality of life, the state of the environment, sustainability, and equality – these measures don’t necessarily capture ‘community wellbeing’.

Our local authority indicators capture individual wellbeing in a given area, but this is not enough to measure the wellbeing of a community as a whole. Community wellbeing takes into account all of the individual wellbeing factors, plus things like intra-community relations, inter-generational connections and social capital.

Community wellbeing is less well defined and understood as a concept, in part because it can be complex and contested. But it’s also due to the fact that indicators measuring a community’s wellbeing may be described using other terms, such as “social capital” or “liveability”.

The scoping review we’re publishing today highlights the theories and concepts that underpin them, as well as useful list of terms used to describe community wellbeing.

Our goal is that this report and indicators help make it easier to understand and start measuring community wellbeing, as has been the case with individual and national wellbeing.

And despite the lack of clarity about what exactly community wellbeing is, we have managed to unearth 43 indicator sets, comprising 273 raw indicators of community wellbeing. The graph below groups these indicators into 25 domains of community wellbeing, showing how often the different domains were mentioned. Most indicators are focussed on health and wellbeing (11%), while economy, inclusion and relationships were also popular fields.

fig2-cwb.png

To delve deeper into the definitions of, and important questions about, community wellbeing, you can read our conceptual review coming out later this summer. Or, have a look at our theory of change slide set that suggests a way for organisations and community groups to approach improving local wellbeing.

This list of indicators isn’t exhaustive, and we’d love to hear from you if you know of any that should be included. You can email us at evidence@whatworkswellbeing.org.

New one-day course on wellbeing and cost effectiveness in policy – 4 October, London

Secure your place on our free one-day course.

Wed, Oct 4, 10 am – 5pm
Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BE

How does your policy or programme impact people’s wellbeing? Is it good value for money?

Our free, one-day course in partnership with LSE will offer you a useful new way to measure the direct relationship between any policy or programme and its impact on people’s wellbeing. It draws on fresh, practical thinking from Lord Gus O’Donnell, Professor Richard Layard and other leading policy and wellbeing experts to give you the tools to calculate whether your policies or interventions are cost effective.

If you create or influence national or local policy, or run public programmes, you probably already know that improving people’s wellbeing is the ultimate goal of any policy or public service. This is true whether it’s within employment, health, planning, economics or any other sector.

Yet, until now, there’s been no way to understand what’s the best value for money when it comes to designing policies and programmes that improve people’s lives.

That’s why we are excited to announce this course, designed by the LSE and the What Works Centre for Wellbeing. It lays out what factors determine wellbeing, then dives straight into the big ideas behind this transformative way of making and shaping policy.
Because this is a practical course, we have an optional bespoke ‘surgery’ session for those facing specific questions about a policy or project they are designing or influencing. Numbers for the surgery will be capped at 25, on a first come, first served basis.

What will be covered?

  • What causes wellbeing, and what scope is there for improving it? Andrew Clark
  • Putting it into practice: what does this mean for national policy? For local authorities? Interactve session covering findings from the what works evidence. What Works Centre for Wellbeing
  • Lunch: Stalls with what works material, outputs from academic teams on hand to answer questions.
  • Putting it into practice: Understanding what works – and the challenges. What Works Centre for Wellbeing

Secure your place on our free one-day course.

New Board Appointments and Evidence Call on Housing

Board & Advisory Appointments

The What Works Centre for Wellbeing is pleased to announce four new Board member and one new Advisory Panel member appointments.

We are delighted to welcome new Board members

  • Sarah Blunn, Partner and Head of Corporate Real Estate at RPC
  • Paul Najsarek, Chief Executive Ealing Council
  • Charlotte Pickles, Deputy Director and Head of Research at Reform think tank
  • Eleanor Budden, Head of Health and Insurance for Goldman Sachs EMEA

and new Advisory Panel member

  • Dr Fiona Adshead, Chief Wellbeing Officer at Bupa

Evidence call: Housing Intervention Evaluations

What’s happening?

What Works Centre for Wellbeing, with the University of Sheffield, are carrying out a systematic review to find out how well housing interventions work to improve the wellbeing and quality of life of people with vulnerable housing status. We are particularly interested in housing interventions designed to tackle homelessness and create sustainable tenancies. 

The review team will be doing a careful search for published material, but would also like to include ‘grey’ literature – such as evaluations that have yet to be published, or reports and evaluations produced by charities, housing associations, government departments, or community groups.

How can you get involved?

If you are aware of an evaluation of a housing intervention, you can submit it to our systematic review and help us build an evidence base for housing interventions.

We are particularly seeking evidence that meets the following criteria:

  1. Evaluation studies with assessments of wellbeing taken before and after the housing intervention – this is to allow us to determine whether the intervention was associated with any changes in wellbeing.
  2. Evidence that includes comparison groups that did not participate in the housing intervention is particularly welcome.
  3. Evaluations of housing interventions designed for people with a vulnerable housing status which does or does not have an explicit wellbeing aim.
  4. Qualitative and quantitative evidence is welcome.

All examples must be written in English and include an author and date. We can only include evidence which can be made publicly available. If the work was done outside the UK, it would be helpful if you could tell us something about how relevant you think the findings are likely to be to the UK housing system.  

Please send your submissions electronically to the What Works Centre for Wellbeing evidence@whatworkswellbeing.org with the subject line ‘Evidence: Wellbeing and Housing Interventions’

All submissions should be received by 31th May 2017.

The protocol is on PROSPERO

 

A budget to increase wellbeing in the UK? #Budget2017

The purpose of our economic growth is to improve the quality of life and prosperity of people in the UK.  This budget has some potential wellbeing gains, but also misses some opportunities which we set out  yesterday. 

The Chancellor’s focus on opportunity through learning and training is backed by the research: evidence shows that continuing to learn throughout life is not only useful for developing skills and improving job prospects, it can improve and maintain our mental wellbeing. Unemployment has a bigger impact on our wellbeing than loss of earnings and it will be interesting to see what difference the support for returning to work makes to wellbeing of those out of the labour market in caring roles where evidence is currently missing. Likewise, the Living wage increase should see wellbeing impacts as the wellbeing impact of increased income is  greater for lower paid than better off, pound for pound.

What this budget does miss is mental health which has the biggest impact on our satisfaction with life – this is important enough that it deserves special mention.

Nancy Hey, Director, What Works Centre for Wellbeing

Work

Unemployment is always damaging to wellbeing. Men tend to suffer more from unemployment, however new evidence suggests women who are committed to their careers suffer more than men. Return to work is good for wellbeing but it has to be good work

Sara Connolly, Professor of Economics at the University of East Anglia. Work, Learning and Wellbeing Programme.

  • £5m for return to work schemes positive for wellbeing. Extended breaks in employment, especially when they are unplanned, have a significant and scarring effect on wellbeing.The support for working parents and return to work schemes could be particularly powerful for certain groups for whom wellbeing is lower. But there is no evidence yet about how the transition into and out of caring roles impacts wellbeing. Research in this area would fill an evidence gap.
  • Business rate changes help local employers. Support of small and medium local businesses through the Business Rates measures could have a positive impact on wellbeing – employees of smaller businesses tend to have higher life satisfaction than those from larger employers.
  • Self-employed are a diverse group.  Some evidence suggests that the self-employed in the UK have higher wellbeing, but one study suggest that the benefits of self-employment are limited to the better off [1] and those in temporary jobs have lower wellbeing. Flexible work is good, but lack of control in work is bad for wellbeing.

Tax changes for female self-employed might discourage women from re-entering or entering the workforce and lower wellbeing. The changes could also have negative wellbeing impacts for learners who are working self-employed to finance part time study.”

Kevin Daniels, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at the University of East Anglia. Lead investigator of Work, Learning and Wellbeing Programme.

Learning and Training

  • The Department for Education will pilot different approaches to encouraging lifelong learning. Evidence shows that continuing to learn throughout life is not only useful for developing skills and improving job prospects; it can improve and maintain our mental wellbeing.  The investment of £40m to pilot different approaches to test what works for different approaches to lifelong learning is a sign that better evidence is key to making better decisions for our quality of life.  
  • Changes to training has the potential to re-balance wellbeing gains for different groups. Currently, lower level and technical qualifications result in lower financial and wellbeing returns than hIgher education qualifications.

Will Vocational Education and Training shakeup convince employers that qualifications have value? If not could be bad for wellbeing of learners. Government investing in VET training will only be good news if young workers can find good quality jobs to put skills to use”

Olga Tregaskis, Professor of International Human Resource Management at the University of East Anglia. Work, Learning and Wellbeing Programme.

  • Education for wellbeing is missing. The most recent Good Childhood Report shows us that girls aged 10-15 are less happy than they used to be. Last year’s report showed us that England ranked 14 out of 15 selected countries for wellbeing at school. This matters for the current lives of these children but also for their future – self-control, perseverance, the capacity to delay gratification, and the ability to cope with shocks are strong predictors of adult wellbeing. A wellbeing budget would focus as much attention on building social and emotional skills as on educational attainment. Which will help with productivity in the long run – we know that increasing wellbeing in children improves exam results, future wellbeing and future earnings.

Community Wellbeing

  • Community assets matter. Local pubs, key hubs for community activities, will benefit from tax breaks, and it would be good if more social spaces – libraries, cafes, and other bumping spaces – could also benefit. Children and people from some demographic groups are less likely to access pubs. There was also no formal valuation of common assets – green spaces, shared community resources, heritage buildings – despite evidence that these are important for community wellbeing.
  • Volunteering and giving. There were no announcements on related issues that could help develop community wellbeing – measures, for example, to encourage volunteering and community groups.
  • Quality of relationships. Good partner relationships are second most important factor in our adult wellbeing, so £20m investment in measures to help women escape violent partners and rebuild their lives are welcome. These programmes speak to early years and the stability of positive parenting – protecting women is protecting children (a shocking 200 children are bereaved each year in the UK by men killing their mothers).  The quality of a parental relationship affects the wellbeing of their children and its violent conflict that is the most harmful.

The budget has missed the major opportunities to increase wellbeing: no large roll-out of preventions of mental illness amongst children, no large initiatives in mental health treatment, where mental health problems are a major cause of low wellbeing; no push for flatter and more trusting organisations and ways of delivering services; no strong push against inequality; no moves to push for more pedestrian zones, jobs near homes, cheaper housing, forced parental leave, or increased mandatory holidays, all of which are moves towards more contented lives that put more value on relations.

Paul Frijters, Professor of Economics at LSE and lead investigator of the Cross-Cutting Wellbeing Programme.

Health and Social Care

Policy that values what matters people prioritises dignity and respect.

  • Potential to improve work conditions in the sector. There are not two cultures in the workplace: how you treat staff is how patients will be treated. The quality of care has often come under scrutiny and many working in care homes are unskilled and hold few formal qualifications. The investment of an additional £2bn for social care packages in England over the next three years opens a window of opportunity if directed toward upskilling in this area.  and thus has a positive impact on those who are currently low skilled working in this area. Forthcoming Centre evidence show the wellbeing and productivity gains possible in this sector, through well designed training.
  • Dedicated mental health provision missing. The Budget did not set out any dedicated investment in addressing the increasing demand for interventions that improve mental health. Early years investment in mental health is key to ensuring wellbeing across the life course, so preventative measures and treatments should be supported.

The Chancellor’s announcement of an extra two billion pounds for adult social care is welcome, obviously. All serious commentators realise that there is a crisis in social care and that this puts huge pressures on the already struggling NHS as well as causing massive personal distress. And investment in social care is probably a very wise priority. We need to welcome this investment, but remember that social care, health care and, perhaps particularly, mental health care, are all crucial elements of central government support for wellbeing.

Peter Kinderman, President of the British Psychological Society, and lead investigator on the Community Wellbeing programme.

Overall economy

The OBR have upgraded their growth forecast from 1.4% to 2% for next year. The level of national income has surprisingly little effect on wellbeing, as long as it does not go down.

Most importantly, the government is not announcing that it will seriously start to experiment with ways to increase wellbeing at all levels of government: no major experiments in teaching, health, the organisation of the civil service, housing, policing, etc. So we are not preparing to learn what works and what we can thus roll out in the future

Paul Frijters,  Professor of Economics at LSE and lead investigator of the Cross-Cutting Wellbeing Programme.

REFERENCES

[1] Blanchflower and Oswald (1998) find a robust positive effect of self-employment using UK data. Blanchflower, D. G., & Oswald, A. J. (1998). What makes an Entrepreneur? Journal of Labor Economics, 16(1), 26–60.

Alesina et al. (2004) find that the positive effect of self-employment is limited to the rich.

Alesina, A., Di Tella, R., & MacCulloch, R. (2004). Inequality and happiness: Are Europeans and Americans different? Journal of Public Economics, 88, 2009–2042.

First quarterly UK personal wellbeing update to September 2016

 

Fig 1b average anxiety ratings to Sept 2016

Fig 1b average anxiety ratings to Sept 2016

Average ratings of anxiety increased slightly between the years ending September 2015 and 2016.

 

Wales was the only country to have higher anxiety ratings than the UK average.

 

 

 

Figure 1a Average life satisfaction, worthwhile and happiness ratings to Sept 2016

Figure 1a Average life satisfaction, worthwhile and happiness ratings to Sept 2016

 

Average life satisfaction, worthwhile and happiness ratings were unchanged between the years ending September 2015 and 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

New rolling quarterly updates

Measuring personal well-being can help us understand how changes in circumstance, policies and wider events in society may affect people’s lives, perhaps more so than traditional economic measures. Up to now, the current publication of official well-being statistics by the Office for National Statistics only allowed for changes in personal well-being to be assessed once a year.  With growing demand for timely statistics ONS reduced the lag from the end of the reporting period to 4 months from 6 months. And we look forward to more improvements to the timeliness of these statistics.

In a bid to make the personal wellbeing data more usable by the public and policy makers alike, ONS are publishing for the first time today, annual UK and country estimates for the 4 personal wellbeing questions on a rolling quarterly basis. Personal well-being data will, going forward, be published 4 times a year. Today’s publication contains data from year ending March 2012 to year ending September 2016.

Will this Queen’s Speech improve wellbeing in UK?

Over 50 years of wellbeing research suggests that governments could improve wellbeing, and reduce wellbeing inequalities, by focusing on:Queen

  1. Mental Health, social & emotional skills, partner relationships and physical health
  2. Community wellbeing including social support, volunteering, giving and social contectedness to reduce loneliness
  3. Balanced stable economic growth, low unemployment and wellbeing at work
  4. Good governance including devolving power, anti-corruption, freedom to choose, faster, less contracted, processes especially for children and families

At an individual level there are five ways to wellbeing – Give, Connect, Take Notice, Be Active, Keep Learning.

Does this Queen’s speech address any of these?

  • The life chances approach is an opportunity to address inequalities in wellbeing that lead to poor outcomes both for those individuals involved and the affect on our national and community wellbeing.  We all benefit from reduced inequalities in wellbeing.  The proposed indicators for life chances needs to include personal wellbeing.
  • There is a a focus on better mental health provision for individuals in the Criminal Justice System, on speeding up processes for children in care, and for adult learning. Improving the speed and efficiency of court processes should improve governance which has an unexpectedly large impact on our wellbeing.  We’re not always great at looking after our future wellbeing so the focus on savings should help. There is potential for digital services to help connect people, improve services and increase learning as well as growth.
  • The National Citizen Service has been shown to have positive lasting wellbeing impacts so its extension is welcome.  It will be important to make sure that the impacts are sustained as it expands.  Increasing giving through the Small Charitable Donations Bill should be positive for wellbeing too.
  • Commuting is one of the few things that has a sustained negative impact on our wellbeing so improving services and giving greater control through access to information is welcome.
  • Continued support for devolution of powers appears in many of the proposed Bills.  This promises greater autonomy, freedom and control and we need to see if these new powers do lead to these outcomes and increase our wellbeing. Likewise support for the Sustainable Development Goals, which takes a wellbeing approach at a global level, is promising and should include the measurement of personal wellbeing.

Why this matters

Our national wellbeing is how we are doing as individuals, communities and as a nation and how sustainable this is for the future. It is measured by the Office for National Statistics and covers – the natural environment, personal well-being, our relationships, health, what we do, where we live, personal finance, the economy, education and skills and governance. Our personal wellbeing is  particularly important as a way to see how we’re doing overall and it impacts the other outcomes.

Give your view on the new forum

Out of the shadows – World Bank & World Health Organisation on Mental Health

Guest blog from our Chairman Dr Paul LitchfieldDr Paul Litchfield

I have just attended a joint meeting of the World Bank and the World Health Organisation in Washington – the topic was mental health and the pressing need to make it a global development priority. It was good to see that mental illness is now, at last, being seen as part of the non-communicable disease crisis that is afflicting every part of the planet.

Margaret Chan, WHO Director General, flagged up recent research showing the global cost of anxiety and depression as being $1 trillion per year and  Jim Yong Kim, World Bank President, framed the issue as one of development and not just public health.

WHO & World Bank

The meeting, titled Out of the Shadows, sought to shine a light on a subject still characterised in many parts of the world by fear, stigma and neglect. Even in the “developed” world the imbalance of resources devoted to mental health compared to physical health is stark. Innovative models of service delivery were showcased from around the world and ranged from individual placement and support in the most deprived communities to high tech psychological therapies.

Workplace interventions are of particular interest to me but progress in that area seems remarkably slow. There appears to be a widespread reluctance by many health professionals to engage with the private sector, even in relation to companies’ own employees. Perhaps that is a reflection of a lack of shared experience and language but some of it also appears to be driven by political dogma which has no place in responding to human distress and misery.

It is heartening to see the progress that has been made in addressing mental illness over the past 30 years. There remains much to do but the profile the issues now have and the range of key players that see the need for action gives cause for hope. The downside is that the positive aspects of good mental health and wellbeing are only mentioned briefly in any discussion before the focus shifts entirely to illness and healthcare systems. The medical model of health that has dominated the past 100 years is not sustainable. Spending 17.5% of GDP on healthcare (as the USA did in 2014) diverts resources from other essential areas and untold harm will be caused to emerging economies that try to emulate the model.

We need to not only accept and address the social determinants of disease but also to reframe political thinking to consider citizens’ wellbeing as the priority. Having a positive – wellbeing – as the end point aspired to is much more motivational than the simple avoidance of harm – illness. Promoting the elements that have been shown to improve wellbeing will reduce ill health while at the same time advancing human happiness and societal progress. That has to be a better framework than one based on the fear of pestilence – whether that is physical or mental.

Dr Paul Litchfield

World Economic ForumAlso launched at the conference is the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Mental Health and their new guide for improving wellbeing at work.

Seven Steps Guide towards a Mentally Healthy Organisation

 

You may also like 

→ E-course on wellbeing in policy & practice

→ Case Studies wellbeing at work 

→ Wellbeing in the UK data