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


Guest blog: What Makes a Good Childhood?

Rachel2Rachel Beardsmore,Senior Research Officer, Wellbeing; Children and Young People at  Office for National Statistics shares insights from the 5th annual Good Childhood report:



Today sees the publication of The Children’s Society’s 5th annual Good Childhood Report. The report highlights some of the key differences in well-being between boys and girls, including for overall life satisfaction, how happy they are with their appearance and mental health.

The Office for National Statistics publishes 31 measures of children’s wellbeing across 7 areas of life and our analysis of these measures supports the findings published in the Good Childhood Report. Using data from the Understanding Society survey, we found that in 2013-14, girls aged between 10 and 15 were more than twice as likely to be unhappy with their appearance as boys of the same age. Girls in their early teens are more likely than younger girls to say they are unhappy with their appearance; over 1 in 4 (26%) girls aged 13-15 said they were unhappy with their appearance, compared with 1 in 10 (11%) girls aged 10-12. The Good Childhood Report shows that between 2009 and 2013-14 things have been getting worse for girls, while for boys there has been no change. We found that teenage boys are much less likely to say they are unhappy with their appearance with just 1 in 14 (7%) reporting being unhappy.

Social media is an ever-present feature WBWKY1FQ2Iof social life, especially for the young. Our
research using the Understanding Society survey
shows that there is a clear association between longer time on social websites and symptoms of mental ill-health. This is concerning, as we have found that the proportion of children using social networking websites for over 3 hours on a school night has increased from 6% in 2009-10 to 9% in 2013-14. Further analysis shows that 1 in 5 (20%) teenage girls spent over 3 hours a night on social networking sites in 2013-14, compared with less than 1 in 10 (9%) teenage boys and 1 in 20 (5%) pre-teen girls. Less than 3% of pre-teen boys reported using social networking sites for over three hours a night. We are currently looking at further research into social media use and wellbeing as part of our programme of research.

The Good Childhood Report illustrates how children’s direct experiences, such as their perceptions of the quality of local facilities and how safe they feel, are more important for their wellbeing than factors that may be more removed from them, such as local area deprivation. Similarly, our research using the Understanding Society survey shows that a child’s relationship with their parents is one of the most important factors associated with their well-being. Around 1 in 10 (10%) children who quarreled frequently with their mother, and 1 in 12 (8%) who quarreled frequently with their father, reported being relatively dissatisfied with life overall. This compares with less than 1 in 40 children who quarreled less frequently with their mother or with their father.

Overall, the majority of children in the UK report good wellbeing. However, there are some aspects of life that are experienced differently by boys and girls and by children of different ages. Our research, and that of The Children’s Society, provides insight to policy-makers to ensure all children have the best childhood possible.

The  Children’s Society and ONS would be very interested in your views →discuss on our forum








Social Capital across the UK

Last week the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) released a report on Social Capital across the UK which looked at 5 measures of how people feel about their neighbourhood.

It highlighted that personal characteristics such as age, ethnicity and socio-economic background all have a role to play in explaining differences that exist between regions, urban and rural areas.

 Here, Dr Veronique Siegler, Senior Research Officer at  ONS,  leading the project on Social Capital since 2014, as part of the ONS programme of work on Wellbeing shares some insights from the project:

Our research shows that for the UK as a whole, the majority of people felt positively about their neighbourhood (Source: Understanding Society, 2011/12). However, marked differences were observed, depending on where people live. Exploring these differences is important to understanding how to build strong relationships in communities which in turn delivers well-being and economic benefits.ONS Wellbeing blog 1

We found that people living in rural areas were more likely to feel positively about their neighbourhood than those in urban areas. For example, around 78% of people living in rural areas trusted people in their neighbourhood compared to 61% of people living in urban areas.

ONS Wellbeing blog 2There were also differences across the English regions and countries of the UK. Northern Ireland had the highest proportion  and London the lowest proportion of people feeling that they belong to their neighbourhood (73% versus 59%) , that others around their local area are willing to help their neighbours (80% versus 65%), that most people in their neighbourhood can be trusted (73% versus 56%).

Our research highlights that characteristics such as age, ethnicity and socio-economic status all have a role in explaining the differences in how people in the UK feel about their neighbourhood.

  • Older people were more likely to feel positively about their neighbourhood than younger people
  • People who identified as White were more likely to feel positively about their neighbourhood than people from all other ethnic groups as a whole in terms of having trust in others in their neighbourhood, feeling a sense of belonging to their neighbourhood and feeling others in their local area were willing to help neighbours

At an individual level, people’s views about their neighbourhood varied with their economic activity. Trust in others in their neighbourhood was highest amongst the retired (79%) and the self-employed (70%) but lowest among the unemployed (43%). We also found that people employed in higher managerial occupations were more likely to trust people in their neighbourhood (73%) than people in routine occupations (54%).ONS Wellbeing 3

We also looked at the impact of people feeling similar to others in their neighbourhood can have on how people feel about others. Not feeling similar could indicate a lack of bridging social capital, or connections between groups of different backgrounds. Around 6 in 10 people (61%) reported feeling similar to others in their neighbourhood, amongst which three-quarters of them (76%) felt they could trust others in their neighbourhood. In comparison, around 14% of people did not feel similar to others in their neighbourhood, amongst which 38% felt they could trust others in their neighbourhood.

The State of Social Capital in Britain: Policy briefing

→Full ONS report on Social Capital across the UK

→Discuss on our forum 



Have your say on Sustainable Development Goals

In the UK  the Office of National Statistics takes a snapshot of how we are doing as a nation, communities and individuals and how sustainable that is for the future in the Life in the UK reports, across the 10 domains and 41 measures of national wellbeing.

At a global level the UN has the Sustainable Development Goals , or ‘Global Goals’ which are a set of 17 goals, 169 targets and 241 supporting indicators.

The ONS are seeking views on what the UK report on these global goals  by 27th May.


ONS are responsible for reporting UK progress towards the goals. They are currently running a consultation (with UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development) where you can inform decisions about which global targets and indicators are relevant for the UK,  and what potential new, UK-focussed indicators there could be.

→Have your say

→ More information about the goals

There is no target or indicator about personal wellbeing. Should we be taking account of how people assess the quality of their own lives? Should there be indicators of this included as part of the UK’s monitoring of specific goals (like health and wellbeing?)

The connection between wellbeing, sustainable development and the Sustainable Development Goals was considered in the this year’s World Happiness Report:

Measuring self-reported happiness and achieving well-being should be on every nation’s agenda as they begin to pursue the Sustainable Development Goals….Indeed the Goals themselves embody the very idea that human well-being should be nurtured through a holistic approach that combines economic, social and environmental objectives. Rather than taking a narrow approach focused solely on economic growth, we should promote societies that are prosperous, just, and environmentally sustainable. Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

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

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 

Latest personal wellbeing figures released from ONS

Each year, about 165,000 of us across the UK are asked to rate how we feel about different aspects of our lives. Today sees the release of the 4th annual results on personal well-being from the Office for National Statistics. → Results in full

The personal wellbeing questions ask: 

  • how satisfied we are with our lives overallwellbeinglisticalcontent01_tcm77-417222

As well as looking at how the average results change year on year, the findings also get below the surface to show how evenly wellbeing is distributed across the UK, both in terms of where we live and our characteristics and circumstances.

The findings are now available across every local authority area in the UK and the personal well-being questions are asked on a wide range of national surveys, programme evaluations  and at local level by agencies like Health and Wellbeing Boards .  

How can the questions and data help you in your wellbeing work?

→ONS have also released information on personal wellbeing and housing: 

Estimates of Personal Well-being from the Annual Population Survey by housing tenure 2014/2015.