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Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the National Accounts measure economic wellbeing according to an internationally agreed system, but they are increasingly seen as measuring only part of societal wellbeing. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is exploring existing indicators and datasets that measure societal wellbeing beyond economic growth.

Publications

Areas of Town Centre Activity: Boundaries and Statistics
Department: Communities and Local Government
Boundaries and statistics on town centres.
Child Poverty in Wales
Department: Welsh Government
Statistics on indicators monitoring progress against the Child Poverty Strategy include data for Wales.
Communities First in Wales
Department: Welsh Government
Communities First is a community focussed programme that supports the Welsh Government’s Tackling Poverty agenda.
Community Life Survey
Department: Cabinet Office
The Community Life Survey is designed to track the latest trends and developments across areas key to encouraging social action and empowering communities. Topics covered include social action, community engagement and charitable giving.
Comparison of UK and EU at-risk-of-poverty rates
Department: Office for National Statistics
Compares the at-risk-of-poverty rates for the UK and EU between 2005 and 2010.
Continuous Household Survey Bulletin
Department: Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency
The Bulletin provides summary information as well as some trend data from previous years. It includes information on - smoking, household composition, debt, internet access, health, sport and leisure, environmental issues, mobile phones and job applications.
Families and Households
Department: Office for National Statistics
Presents estimates of families by type, including married and cohabiting couple families and lone parents. Tables on household size and household types are also provided.
Family Resources Survey Reports (Northern Ireland)
Department: Social Development (Northern Ireland)
Information collected from the Family Resources Survey.
Focus on Social Inequalities
Department: Office for National Statistics
Describes the different experiences of social groups in the UK today in six key areas: education, work, income, living standards, health, and participation.
Household Satellite Accounts
Department: Office for National Statistics
Statistics on unpaid household production, assigning monetary values to the goods and services produced for their own consumption and in the voluntary sector.
Human Capital Estimates
Department: Office for National Statistics
Valuation of the knowledge, skills, competencies and attributes of individuals that facilitate the creation of personal, social and economic well-being in the UK.
Measuring National Well-being
Department: Office for National Statistics
Measures of National Well-being. Drawing social and economic data from government and other organisations; painting a picture of UK society and how it changes.
Measuring Subjective Wellbeing in the UK
Department: Office for National Statistics
Reviews what subjective well-being is, why it should be measured, how it is currently measured in the UK and what well-being questions are being asked.
National Strategic Indicators for Wales
Department: Welsh Government
This statistical release covers a number of topics such as health, education etc.
National Survey for Wales
Department: Welsh Government
This survey is a large-scale social survey of the views and behaviours of people across Wales.
Rural Scotland - Key Facts
Department: Scottish Government
Key statistics related to rural Scotland that provide a picture of the lives of its people.
Scottish Welfare Fund Statistics
Department: Scottish Government
Summary pending
Social Capital Indicators
Department: Office for National Statistics
This paper describes ONS’s work on developing statistics on social capital in the UK.
Social Trends
Department: Office for National Statistics
Social Trends draws together social and economic data from a wide range of sources; it paints a broad picture of UK society today, and how it has been changing.
Supporting People Client Statistics, Scotland
Department: Scottish Government
Annual information on numbers receiving housing support through the Supporting People Programme.
Sustainable Development indicators
Department: Office for National Statistics
These indicators provide an overview of progress toward a sustainable economy, society and environment. Published alongside the headline and supplementary indicators are assessments of change, both short and long term.
Time-Use Surveys and the Measurement of National Well-Being
Department: Office for National Statistics
This article was commissioned by ONS, and establishes how time-use data can be used to measure National Well-being. It describes the potential uses of time-use data and concludes that time diaries provide a means for integrating various distinct, potentially opposing, views of economic output and aggregate well-being.
Urban Rural Reports (Northern Ireland)
Department: Social Development (Northern Ireland)
Looks at data from the Family Resources Survey classified by urban/rural regions.
Wales In Figures
Department: Welsh Government
Brings together a selection of key statistics for Wales.

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Overview

The need to measure wellbeing beyond economic growth is recognised within economics. One phrase often used, drawing inspiration from a speech by Robert Kennedy in 1968, is that ‘there is more to life than GDP’.

In the 1970s, Richard Easterlin found that once a certain GDP is reached, the strength of the relationship between income and reported levels of happiness declines markedly. The Easterlin paradox appears that reported happiness has remained broadly level in the US over 30 years while GDP per head in real terms has continued on an upward trend.

Part of the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) analysis programme is to address the priorities of children, ageing, public sector productivity and societal welfare. To do this, ONS aims to understand more fully the requirements for measures beyond GDP and add insight and value to existing measures and relevant datasets for the determination, design and evaluation of policy.

There is no shortage of relevant existing data to help build pictures of societal wellbeing and to assess our quality of life. Clearly, our overall wellbeing is likely to reflect health, education, culture, safety and a sense of community, among other things. But any of the strands may be valued more or less by individuals and groups within society.

‘Measuring Societal Wellbeing’ provides an overview of measuring societal wellbeing and considers the main approaches emerging for how it should be measured.

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Technical Data

Measuring societal wellbeing is one of the Office for National Statistics’s (ONS) current analytical priorities, along with children and young people, ageing and public sector productivity. It was identified as a priority issue and as the underlying theme for Social Trends 38, because for an increasing number of public policy needs, and in political and public debate, there is more to life than GDP.

Sustainable economic growth and economic well-being remain important. However, international bodies such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) are, through the 2007 Istanbul Declaration, promoting debate about what progress means and how a shared view of societal wellbeing can be produced, based on high-quality statistics.

ONS has currently released ‘Measuring Societal Wellbeing’, and plans to publish additional reports that fully embrace its past, present and future outputs in order to feed into the evaluation of wellbeing.

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Glossary

  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)

    Defra is a UK Government department. Its mission is to enable everyone to live within their environmental means. This is most clearly exemplified by the need to tackle climate change internationally, through domestic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to secure a healthy and diverse natural environment. The 2005 Sustainable Development Strategy set out a commitment for government to explore the concept of wellbeing. 

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Contact Details

For statistical enquiries about this topic, please contact:

Equalities and Wellbeing Branch

Email: equalitiesandwellbeing@ons.gsi.gov.uk

Telephone: +44 (0) 1633 455010

Rm 1.024 ONS, Office for National Statistics Cardiff Road Newport NP10 8XG

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