Key milestone in measurement of national wellbeing

On the 25th July the Office of National Statistics (ONS) published the results of its consultation into the factors British people perceived as important to their wellbeing. The factors people most commonly mentioned included their health, relationships, work-life balance, access to green space and having an adequate income to cover basic needs. Having good, accessible public services such as healthcare, education, and transport were also viewed as important.

The ONS will now consider these responses, and see how it can actually measure them in a meaningful way. The ONS aims to publish a set of indicators in October this year.

The consultation received around 34,000 responses in total, which included those from the 7,250 people the ONS met with face-to-face in the 175 events it organised up and down the country.

Academic experts also contributed to the debate. Professor Paul Dolan of the London School of Economics noted that wellbeing indicators could play a key role in the development of Government policy. They could help evaluate the effect of different policies on wellbeing, inform the design of new policies and provide an overall measure of progress.

In order to make sure that the Government can use the statistics in such a way, the ONS has confirmed that it will actively consult with Government departments when drawing up the indicators.

As many of you may know, the ONS has already started to measure people’s subjective wellbeing – their sense of happiness, or life satisfaction – as of April 2011. It aims to publish the first full results in July 2012. However, the ‘national wellbeing’ statistics will be a far broader measure, including both subjective factors (how people feel) and some of the objective factors, such as health, that emerged from the consultation.

• Jo Swinson, Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Wellbeing Economics.