Wellbeing is about people and creating the conditions for us all to thrive.  It’s quality of life and prosperity, positive physical and mental health, sustainable thriving communities.

Wellbeing is a measure of social progress and, arguably, the goal of good government and charitable activity.

As our concept of success has evolved, and life is more complex, we need a more flexible measure than GDP, our measure of national income often used as a proxy for wellbeing.

Wellbeing provides a way to understand what’s needed and how best we can all work together to improve our lives in a complex world. It brings together economic, social, environmental, democratic and personal outcomes and avoids focusing on specific areas at the expense of others. We can be better at measuring what matters AND using what we know to create a better society.  It is about engaging citizens in meaningful deliberation about what better society could look like.

Wellbeing measurement recognises humans are emotional and values non-financial benefits. How you feel and your quality of life  – as you experience it – matters too.

We encourage routine measurement of wellbeing and an experimental approach to policy and practice to look at the causes of wellbeing, and how to increase wellbeing cost effectively, as a major objective.

Definition & measurement

Although there is ongoing debate about the definition of wellbeing, the Measuring National Wellbeing Programme at the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) has asked people across the nation what matters most to them. The results have been organised into a live dashboard, including measures of personal wellbeing or people’s assessments of their own quality of life and experiences. From the outset, this work has benefited from the expertise of leading academics from around the world and national debate within the UK.

After a 4-year programme of work, the measurement framework and definition have matured and the UK evidence base is now substantial. The What Works Centre for Wellbeing will build on this solid foundation, using the following definition of wellbeing based on the work of ONS:

Wellbeing, put simply, is about ‘how we are doing’ as individuals, communities and as a nation and how sustainable this is for the future.

We define wellbeing as having 10 broad dimensions which have been shown to matter most to people in the UK as identified through a national debate. The dimensions are: the natural environment, personal well-being, our relationships, health, what we do, where we live, personal finance, the economy, education and skills and governance.

Personal wellbeing is a particularly important dimension which we define as how satisfied we are with our lives, our sense that what we do in life is worthwhile, our day to day emotional experiences (happiness and anxiety) and our wider mental wellbeing.

ONS Reflections on Measuring National Well-being July 2013