How are we doing? ONS update personal wellbeing indicators and figures at Local Authority level

How are we doing as a nation?  How is personal wellbeing in my area?

The Office National Statistics (ONS) has been measuring wellbeing, or “how we are doing” as a nation since 2011. By looking beyond traditional measures of progress such as a healthy economy, we can provide further information on what matters most to the UK public. The Stiglitz Sen Fitoussi report, published in 2009, first acknowledged this and evidenced the increasing gap between objective measures such as economic indicators (such as GDP) and subjective measures such as individual perceptions of wellbeing and progress.

The recent update to the ONS 41 indicators of wellbeingonswheelsept16 highlights the differences between subjective and objective measures, such as

  •  unemployment levels continue to fall, but fewer people are content with their jobs
  • although there have been improvements in healthy life expectancy, individuals’ satisfaction with their health has fallen
  • despite increasing voter turnout at general elections, trust in national government is decreasing.

This is why we believe it is important to have wellbeing at the forefront of policy making, as by reporting only against traditional economic measures, we are painting a picture that may be misaligned with how people are feeling and what matters to them.

How is my area doing?

The personal wellbeing indicators are one of the important ways in which we can measure, subjectively, how people are feeling in the UK.

wellbeingmapThe local authority personal wellbeing estimates released today, with an interactive map and explorer, allow policy makers, local authorities and individuals to explore personal well-being in their area, compare to other areas and track changes over time.

Using this alternative dimension, measures of wellbeing can provide a broader picture of local and national progress.

Wellbeing indicator update → National Wellbeing Dataset

LA personal wellbeing estimates → Interactive Map  and Explorer

 

What can we learn from £40M invested into wellbeing?

ewanprofile

Here, the Centre’s Ewan Davison takes a look at the Big Lottery Fund’s Wellbeing 2 programme and evaluation.

Following the recent publication of the Wellbeing 2 final evaluation we’ve gathered an overview of the programme, links to evaluations and a series of case studies together as a learning resource 

Wellbeing 2 followed the £160m Wellbeing funding, continuing to support communities to create healthier lifestyles and improve their wellbeing. It funded interventions to improve levels of healthy eating, activity and mental health. But wellbeing is much wider than one particular aspect or determinant, it means a lot of different things to different people – as we’ve learnt from talking to people across the UK about what matters to them. At a high level it’s their quality of life. So, improving quality of our lives and our wellbeing should be the ultimate aim of policy.

blfwellbeing-infographic600px-apr16-final

A really encouraging part of this study was the use of personal wellbeing as a measure; simply put it was asking individuals how they feel using the ONS 4 wellbeing questions. Across the Wellbeing 2 portfolios adults reported an increase in their levels of life satisfaction from 6.2 (on a scale of 0-10) at the start of the interventions to 6.5 at the end to 7.0 at three months post intervention. Life satisfaction is a key measure for wellbeing. There were also positive change reported in feelings of being worthwhile, happiness and anxiety levels. For example: 54% of young people reported a positive change in their mental wellbeing.

For those of us interested in policy, the wellbeing 2 evaluation report is important. We need to look beyond the numbers to try and identify what works, and what doesn’t in delivery and measurement. The report shares a real wealth of qualitative data, insights from projects on what worked across delivery, promoting behavior change, achieving systems change and sustainability.

The key points to take away from it are:

  • The importance of ensuring engagement in design and delivery (such as using peer educators).
  • Taking asset-based approaches which work with local settings.
  • Developing the skills of staff and partners along with volunteers.
  • For some portfolios, working with local systems to enable sustainability and change to those systems, such as basing staff in local authorities and working with authorities (and communities) to meet outcomes identified in their Joint Strategic Needs Assessments.

The importance of time when evaluating

Another key finding from this report and the follow up round table was that time is a very important factor (perhaps a luxury which this funding has allowed). It enables a test, learn, and adapt approach in delivery and in terms of measuring impact. Policy makers need to make time to engage people in the design of delivery and evaluation to keep activities relevant and effective.

There is some great work going on out there (as shown by this report) and as a nation we’re spending a lot of money and effort on activity so we need to learn from it collectively and in a systematic way. We need to measure with enough consistency to enable a meaningful comparison across interventions which looks at impact and cost, and reflects the strength of evidence. We can also use existing activities and management data to make running trials easier and cheaper, which in turn make the research findings more useful to practice and decision making.

We all need to get better at capturing learning on wellbeing impacts and growing the evidence base. This is the start.

What are your issues with evaluating wellbeing? With wellbeing impact often being a secondary outcome- or not the primary focus of funding a project – how can we create a measurement instrument sensitive enough to capture changes without becoming overwhelming  or a burden to providers/participants? → Join our forum to discuss

overview of the Wellbeing 2 programme, links to evaluations case studies 

Full evaluation on Wellbeing 2 along with  Big Blog

 

 

Guest blog: Alcohol, wellbeing, and subtle policy -does drinking make us happy?

benbaumberggeiger

Ben Baumberg Geiger, Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy at the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR) at the University of Kent  poses some questions about drinking and our wellbeing….

 

There has been an increasing interest in wellbeing among alcohol policy researchers. Recent studies have estimated wellbeing-related impacts such as ‘harms to others’, while the world-leading Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model estimates a 50p minimum price would lead to wellbeing benefits worth more than £2bn over 10 years.

Yet strangely these studies have ignored the main reason that people drink – the pleasure of drinking. Conversely, those few studies that have estimated the value of the pleasure of drinking have made wildly optimistic assumptions about its wellbeing-enhancing effects, which ignore the impaired rationality of people when drinking – something that most of us drinkers can vouch for – or its addictive nature.

To try to spur a more careful consideration of alcohol and wellbeing, George MacKerron and I recently published a paper in Social Science and Medicine that looks empirically at how people’s wellbeing changes as their drinking changes over time. We used two different datasets:

  • The more conventional analysis was to use the British Cohort Study 1970, looking at how people’s life satisfaction changes between the ages of 30, 34 and 42, and how this is associated with changes in their drinking.
  • The more unusual analysis was to use George’s ‘Mappiness’ data – over two million observations from over 30,000 people, collected by buzzing them twice a day on their iPhones. We were able to look at whether people report being happier at moments that they are drinking.

We found that drinking does seem to make you happier. People report being happier at moments that they’re drinking compared to other moments (controlling for what else they’re doing, who they’re with, and what time of day it is). And while it’s impossible to completely rule out reverse causality – that people drink more when they’re happier – we did control for people’s happiness earlier that day, and still found that people were happier when they’re drinking.restaurant-alcohol-bar-drinks.jpg

Yet at the same time, this happiness doesn’t spill over much to other moments (in Mappiness), nor do people say they are more satisfied with life in years that they drink more (in BCS70). Indeed, if people develop alcohol problems then they become (unsurprisingly) less satisfied with life.

What does all this mean for wellbeing-focused policymakers and researchers?

The first point is that this is an area that could desperately use more research. We would assume that different patterns of drinking are associated with different wellbeing impacts for different people – but sadly the only alcohol-related information that Mappiness includes is whether or not people were drinking (and this only for the relatively advantaged groups with iPhones in 2010-2013). A more alcohol-focussed app-based project would undoubtedly uncover more complex patterns of practical significance.

Still, our research already suggests that the wellbeing impacts of alcohol are subtle – they are not simply positive or negative, but rather depend on the time frame and wellbeing measures that you are interested in. And if they also depend on other factors (such as patterns of drinking or cultural associations), then this opens up the possibility of subtle policymaking that particularly reduces the drinks that are least beneficial (or even harmful) to wellbeing. For example, policies could ‘nudge’ intoxicated people into better decisions through smaller serving sizes or regulations on the pub/bar environment.1MZGVQHJT0

Rather than being the final word, we hope our study prompts other researchers and policymakers to think further about alcohol policy and wellbeing, rather than falling back to the two untenable positions that we set out at the outset.

→Discuss on our forum

Ben is also Co-Director of the University of Kent’s Q-Step centre, and member of the editorial board of the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice

What wellbeing inequalities tell us about the EU Referendum result

Inequalities of wellbeing in the UK can help us understand the EU referendum result

  • High wellbeing inequality was a strong predictor of an area voting to leave.
  • Wellbeing inequality is driven by unemployment rates and ‘governance’.
    • Governance is how people view the quality of society, its functioning and its institutions. This includes voice, accountability, satisfaction with government & the economy, trust in institutions or the control of corruption.
  • Areas with high average wellbeing had higher turnout.

Lord Gus O’Donnell, Patron of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing

“This research demonstrates the importance of inequalities in explaining why people voted to leave. It provides strong supporting evidence for the views expressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Lords this week. It is also an excellent example of how viewing the world through the wellbeing lens provides vital insights into what is really worrying people.

Personal wellbeing is measured by how satisfied people say they are with their life in the ONS statistics.

saamahAnalysis & Comment by Saamah Abdallah from the Centre’s Community Wellbeing team:

The causes of the referendum result are deep-rooted and complex. Economic inequality has been touted by many as the main cause, whilst others have focused on the alienation of the white working classes.

One factor which has not been discussed much is wellbeing. Might low wellbeing explain the decisions of many to turn over the apple cart and vote to leave the EU? Previous research at the LSE has shown, for example, that low average wellbeing predicts the likelihood that an incumbent government will be voted out in an election.

At the New Economics Foundation we looked at data from the Annual Population Survey, which asks over 160,000 people a year a set of four wellbeing questions, including a question asking how satisfied they are with their life, using a scale of 0 to 10. Looking at the voting pattern across the country, it turns out that places with lower average wellbeing did not have a different pattern of voting, but they did have lower turnout.

As part of our work for the What Works Centre, we are also exploring how to measure wellbeing inequality – how much variation in levels of wellbeing there is in a particular place.  Just as looking at average income can hide important disparities in the distribution, so too can looking at average wellbeing. We’ve used an indicator called ‘mean pair distance’ – if you take two random people in an area, what’s the average difference between them in terms of how satisfied they are with their life? Doing so, we found that high wellbeing inequality was a strong predictor of an area voting to leave.

Referendum WB fig

Differences in wellbeing inequality range from 2.4 in Blaenau Gwent in the Welsh valleys, to 1.5 in Cheshire East and Falkirk. Overall, we found that those areas such as Blaenau Gwent that had high levels of inequality overwhelming voted to leave, whereas those with low levels of inequality voted to remain. On average, in the 20 most unequal places in Britain, 57% of voters opted to leave. In the 20 most equal places, only 43% voted to leave.

We found that wellbeing inequality was associated with voting behaviour even when taking into account the percentage of residents with higher education (which has already been highlighted in the Guardian as the most important predictor of voting behaviour), and the percentage of the population that categorises itself as ‘White British’, thus controlling for ethnic diversity.

Higher local income inequality (measured using the 80:20 ratio) was not at all associated with voting to leave.

More research will be needed to explore the reasons for this relationship, but this year’s World Happiness Report argues that wellbeing inequality captures the subjective experience of inequality better than objective measures of income inequality. And it seems it is this subjective experience of inequality that has driven many people to feel dissatisfied and frustrated with seemingly distant elites.

How can wellbeing inequality be reduced?  We’ll be exploring that question further as part of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing.  In previous research, looking at data across Europe, we found that levels of wellbeing inequality were predicted by levels of unemployment and the quality of governance, particularly voice and accountability.

→Discuss on our forum

→Join our forum

NEW 5 years of personal wellbeing data from ONS

Since 2011, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has asked personal wellbeing questions to adults in the UK, to better understand how they feel about their lives.

Today they have released the fifth annual Personal Well-being dataset, as part of the Measuring National Well-being programme. Accompanying this is a report which presents headline results (local authority breakdowns will be published in early autumn 2016) for the year ending March 2016, together with how things have changed over the five years of collecting this information.

It finds that:

  • reported personal well-being has improved across each of the measures over the 5 year period between the years ending March 2012 and 2016
  • there has been no improvement in ratings of happiness, anxiety and feeling that things in life are worthwhile over the 1 year period between the years ending March 2015 and 2016
  • those living in London reported lower average ratings of life satisfaction, anxiety and feeling things in life are worthwhile compared with UK overall
  • people in Northern Ireland continue to give higher average ratings of personal well-being for all measures except anxiety, when compared with the other UK countries
  • although women reported higher life satisfaction and worthwhile levels when compared with men, they also reported higher levels of anxietyWell-being-01 (1)

Personal well-being in the UK: 2015 to 2016

→Have your say: ONS would value feedback on how this information is shared:

Usually, we release our annual dataset in September. However, this year, for the first time, we have brought this forward to July. We have also given our reference tables a new look, and the statistical bulletin is written in a new style that is more concise than previous years. We are really interested to know what you think of this.

→Please get in touch and give us your feedback at qualityoflife@ons.gov.uk

New insights into wellbeing from the European Social Survey

saamah Saamah Abdallah, Programme Manager and Senior Researcher
New Economics Foundation and What Works Wellbeing Community team.

Last Friday marked the launch of an innovative new report exploring the policy stories told by wellbeing data in the European Social Survey Looking through the wellbeing kaleidoscope. 

The report is the culmination of a year-long project led by the Centre for Comparative Social Surveys at City University London, working alongside the New Economics Foundation, and the Wellbeing Institute at the University of Cambridge.

Whilst much useful wellbeing research has relied upon life satisfaction as an overall measure of wellbeing –  this project took advantage of the richness of the European Social Survey, which has now included two specific modules on wellbeing, to explore its multi-dimensionality.

Here are eight of the most interesting things you’ll find in the report:

  • Results for a new comprehensive psychological wellbeing measure. It incorporates ten different aspects of wellbeing – competence, emotional stability, engagement, meaning, optimism, positive emotion, positive relationships, resilience, self-esteem, and vitality.
  • The UK ranks second from bottom in terms of sense of vitality. As well as the overall comprehensive score, the report explores how different elements of wellbeing vary between countries. For example.  The UK relatively well in terms of optimism (8th out of 21 countries),  but not so well in terms of vitality or positive relationships (16th out of 21).
  • There are often large differences in wellbeing between population groups, but they are not inevitable. Although those of an ethnic minority, on low incomes or with low education often have lower average wellbeing, this is not always the case, with some countries showing almost no difference. This suggests that policy could aim to reduce or eliminate these inequalities.
  • Unemployment rates and governance are the key determinants of wellbeing inequalities.Not only is unemployment and poor governance bad for average wellbeing, but they are further associated with inequalities in wellbeing.
  • People in the UK how low levels of participation in the five ways to wellbeing, compared to peer countries such as France and Germany. The five ways to wellbeing are a set of actions that evidence suggests promote wellbeing. They are: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning, and Give.  With the exception of those aged 65 and over, the UK generally had low levels of participation in the five ways,
  • 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 more marginalised groups in society – women, those who claim membership of a discriminated group, and those with lower education – have a lower level of perceived quality of society. This is measured in terms of assessments of the key institutions in society: trust in the police, politicians, parliament and legal institutions, and satisfaction with public services, government, the economy, and democracy. Those in middle aged groups (25 to 64) also have more negative views. This suggests that our democratic and legal institutions may need to do more to engage with these groups.
  • There are marked regional inequalities in perceived quality of society within the UK, with London and the South East having high levels of economic and governmental satisfaction compared to other regions, particularly the Midlands.

→Find out more www.wellbeingcounts.org.

→Discuss on our forum

Take part in a National Employee Mental Wellbeing Survey from Business in the Community

Our emotional health, in both adult and childhood, is the biggest driver of our adult wellbeing, followed by our partner relationship and our employment.  Mental health is one of four areas recommended by the Commission on Wellbeing and Policy where action would improve wellbeing, with wellbeing at work another.  This is why we are supporting the National Employee Mental Wellbeing Survey from Business in the Community → Take part

This week is Mental Heath Awareness week #MHAW16Print

To coincide, Business in the Community have launched the National Employee Mental Wellbeing Survey  – the UK’s largest survey of mental wellbeing at work, taking place annually over 3 years. It includes the personal wellbeing questions used by the Office of National Statistics to measure national wellbeing. 

Are you aged 16-64+ and currently in employment in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

www.thewellbeingsurvey.org.uk

Why take part?

  • Mental ill health is the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK and is on the increase. 15.2 million days of sickness absence in 2013 were caused by everyday conditions such as stress anxiety or depression – a dramatic increase from 11.8 million days in 2010.
  • be part of an unprecedented collaboration to transform how the UK approaches mental wellbeing at work.
  •  National Employee Mental Wellbeing Survey  wants to hear from all UK employees – line managers, senior leaders, direct reports – in order to give a complete picture of workers’ mental wellbeing now,what employers are doing about it, and what needs to change.  Every opinion counts.

We want to conduct the UK’s largest survey of mental wellbeing at work in the UK to gain a snapshot of the UK workforce’s mental wellbeing, and its capacity to support wellbeing.

– Business in the Community

Why businesses should take part in the survey?

BiTC believe we are nearing a crisis point for mental wellbeing in work and it is a business critical issue for all organisations:

  • Mental health costs the UK £70 billion per year, equivalent to 5% of GDP.
  • Mental ill health costs each employer £1,035 per employee, per year.
  • Failure to unlock the workforce’s full potential costs UK business £6 billion.
  • Only 2 in 5 employees are working at peak performance.
  • Studies suggest that presenteeism from mental ill health alone costs the UK economy £15.1 billion per annum, almost twice the business cost of employee absence from work.
  • More line managers are experiencing stress-related ill-health and symptoms of psychological ill-health.
  • 3 in 5 managers are concerned about the impact of longer working hours on their stress levels.

There is still a stigma associated with mental health, through a lack of understanding.  People might feel very happy to tell a colleague about a physical injury they’ve sustained, but when it comes to mental health, people can keep this to themselves through fear of being treated differently or judged.

  • Only a third of employees received any support to manage workplace stress.
  • Less than half of those that are affected by mental ill health feel confident to disclose their condition in the workplace, which can mean issues become more severe.

→ Information for employers

→ Information for individuals

→ Take the survey www.thewellbeingsurvey.org.uk