Measuring wellbeing

Our measuring wellbeing series consists of discussion papers intended to ignite debate, and how-to guides offering practical advice.

How-to guides

How to implement Personal Wellbeing questions in your survey (ONS publication, April 2017) *NEW*

The ONS personal well-being (PWB) questions allow people to evaluate their own lives. The four questions assess three types of well-being; evaluative, eudemonic and experience. These measures ask people to evaluate how satisfied they are with their life overall, whether they feel they have meaning and purpose in their life, and asks about their emotions during a particular period.

These four questions (known as the ONS4) are listed below:

Next I would like to ask you four questions about your feelings on aspects of your life. There are no right or wrong answers. For each of these questions I’d like you to give an answer on a scale of nought to 10, where nought is ‘not at all’ and 10 is ‘completely’.

  1. Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?
  2. Overall, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?
  3. Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?
  4. On a scale where nought is ‘not at all anxious’ and 10 is ‘completely anxious’, overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?

ONS first added these four questions to the Annual Population Survey (APS) in April 2011. This is the source of the National Statistic estimates of personal well-being in the UK that are published by ONS. These questions have subsequently been added to many surveys across the UK.
How-to guide, version 1 – How to measure wellbeing inequalities (March 2017)


Discussion paper


Discussion paper 1 – measuring wellbeing and cost effectiveness: using subjective wellbeing (Dec, 2016)

Discuss this paper in our ‘measuring wellbeing’ forum


More about the series

As a collaborating centre on wellbeing in the UK, we bring together leading thinking and practice on current and potential uses of wellbeing in policy and decision-making. This extends across different disciplines, sectors and jurisdictions of the UK.

With our work we aim to allow meaningful comparison across sectors and to move towards consensus on what the outcomes of interest are and what to measure to understand value.

We want to make wellbeing evaluation more robust and easier to use, and do, by learning from practice and integrating the best research principles. The Centre’s approach is independent, evidence based, collaborative, practical, open and iterative.

Upcoming Discussion Papers

  • Towards a common currency
  • Community wellbeing theory of change, definitions and measures
  • Experiential wellbeing measurement
  • Wellbeing measurement in practice
  • Local adult wellbeing indicators
  • Measuring Wellbeing Inequalities
  • Cost Effectiveness
  • Capabilities approach

See the round up of common definitions and measures

Past events and learning  

  1. Roundtable learning from Big Lottery Fund Wellbeing evaluations – 16th March 2016 
  2. Seminar series 
    1. 13th October – Prof John Brazier Converting the life satisfaction question into QALYs. Do people trade life satisfaction for additional years of life?
    2. 17th November – Prof Martin Knapp Cost-effectiveness analysis with wellbeing as the measure of benefit
  3. Longitudinal Analysis workshop by UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies – November
  4. 2 day conference with OECD & LSE Centre for Economic Performance – December
  5. Wellbeing evaluation/cost effectiveness – Early 2017

We have an active online forum discussing the practice and principles of wellbeing methods and evaluation.

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