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Statistical Indices

Volume 496: debated on Wednesday 15 July 2009

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what statistical indices have been used to measure levels of happiness and well-being in the UK in the last 30 years. (286294)

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the authority to reply.

Letter from Karen Dunnell, dated July 2009:

As National Statistician, I have been asked to reply to your Parliamentary Question asking what statistical indices have been used to measure levels of happiness and well being in the UK in the past 30 years. (286294)

The general approach to measuring happiness is to assess life satisfaction, both overall and for particular aspects of life, by surveys. The question “How satisfied are you with your life overall these days?”, with a response scale of 1-10, has been included in a number of studies over time, including the British Household Panel Survey, managed by the Institute for Economic and Social Research at Essex University. Summary results from these studies have been reported in the Office for National Statistics’ Social Trends publication and elsewhere.

The Department for Food and Rural Affair’s Sustainable Development Indicator set now includes wellbeing measures, including survey results on life satisfaction.

The new economics foundation (nef) has calculated a Happy Planet Index which combines environmental impact with wellbeing to measure the environmental efficiency with which people in the UK and in other countries live long and happy lives. The nef has also published National Accounts of Wellbeing, which use a variety of indicators to reflect aspects of how people experience their lives.

The ONS is currently reviewing these and other approaches to measuring the wellbeing of UK society, to complement the long-established measures of economic wellbeing published regularly in the economic National Accounts. We have placed a number of reports and links on the ONS website, at: