Measuring wellbeing not a “gimmick” but can tackle inequalities in society

The government’s attempt to measure wellbeing is not a “gimmick” but can tackle inequalities and aid recovery from mental health problems, says a leading charity.

David Cameron last year asked the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to find out how to measure the nation’s wellbeing.

Wellbeing is measurable in the same way the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of our economy is, said National Statistician Jill Matheson this week in a report following an ONS survey.

“It is disappointing that some commentators in the media have chosen to that portray the exercise as a pointless, gimmicky happiness survey,” said Simon Lawton-Smith, head of policy at the Mental Health Foundation.

“We know that wellbeing is vital to tackling inequalities, with the need to measure wellbeing critical to identifying the success of initiatives addressing income and health inequalities.

“The ONS survey is the first step towards establishing a better understanding of the importance of wellbeing for individuals and communities, to drive future policy and spending decisions around public health, housing, employment, education and the environment.

“More specifically, positive mental health and wellbeing helps people with diagnosed mental disorders to recover more quickly.”

Mr Lawton-Smith said wellbeing is not the same as being happy.

“What we are interested in is overall wellbeing, which the government has described as a positive physical, social and mental state,” he said.

“It’s not about feeling happy for a few minutes at having won £10 on the lottery or buying a new pair of shoes. It’s about building a sense of long-term wellbeing in individuals and communities.”

In October the ONS is due to come up with ‘wellbeing indicators’, which will then go out to consultation.

Read for yourself: National Statistician’s Reflections on the National Debate on Measuring National Well-being

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