Family relationships should form key measurement of wellbeing, says public

By Lauren Higgs
Monday, July 25, 2011

People in the UK believe their wellbeing should be measured in terms of the quality of their family relationships, according to a report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

A consultation on how to measure the wellbeing of the UK was launched in November last year and generated more than 34,000 responses.

Common themes mentioned by respondents, which will be reflected in new wellbeing indicators, included good connections with friends and family, health, job satisfaction and economic security, and access to education and training.

The first set of national wellbeing indicators will be published in the autumn, subject to consultation and further development.

The Department for Education is working with the ONS on the possibility of introducing a national child wellbeing indicator.

National statistician Jil Matheson said the response to the debate on wellbeing was "huge and thoughtful".

"The UK public were definitely keen to tell us what is important to them and I am pleased that we have been able to give so many people a place to discuss what national wellbeing means on both a personal and national level," she said.

"People of all ages highlighted the importance of family, friends, health, financial security, equality and fairness in determining wellbeing."

She added that the new wellbeing indicators would complement existing measures of economic growth to gauge "how society is doing".

"It is essential that the set of measures of wellbeing is relevant and based on what matters to people, both as individuals and for the UK as a whole.

"The UK is not alone in wanting to develop better measures of national wellbeing," she said. "We are working with international partners in developing measures of wellbeing that will paint a fuller picture of our societies.

"This is a long-term programme. ONS will continue to consult with users and policy makers as we develop the measures. This will ensure that UK wellbeing measures are reliable and impartial, and improve our understanding of the UK's society."

Bob Reitemeier, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said children's and adult's views must be given equal weight in any measure of the UK's wellbeing.

"We know from our research that children emphasise family, friends and free choice as key elements that make a real difference to their wellbeing," he said.

"These factors that are so important to children must be the focus for decision-makers at every level of government. They need to move beyond just concentrating on economic growth.

"When the government puts together future measures of national wellbeing, they should be rooted in the views of the country's 11 million children and be relevant to their lives. We are pleased that the ONS recognises this, and look forward to working with them to make it a reality." 

As well as developing the new wellbeing indicators, the ONS started to measure individual wellbeing by including four new questions in the Integrated Household Survey earlier this year.

Around 200,000 people have been asked to rate their "life satisfaction" on a scale of 0 to ten, as well as how happy and how anxious they feel, and the extent to which the things they do in life are worthwhile. The first annual results will be available in July 2012.

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