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Measuring well-being

27 July 2011

wordcloud - web

A University research project commissioned by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has fed into a government debate on how to measure national well-being.

Researchers at the ESRC Centre for Business Relationships, Accountability, Sustainability and Society (BRASS) - in collaboration with educational charity Techniquest - were asked to prepare a report providing preliminary data on the views of young people in Wales on well-being.

The findings from the report were mentioned in several key documents published this week (July 25) at the six-month stage of the national ‘what matters to you?’ debate launched by the Prime Minister David Cameron in November 2010.

The aim of the national report is to develop a trusted set of National Statistics to help understand and monitor people’s well-being. It is hoped that this will cover the quality of life of people in the UK, environmental and sustainability issues, as well as the economic performance of the country.

The BRASS research project asked 129 young people (16-19 year olds) in South Wales to explain what well-being meant to them via a series of informal debates and interactive discussions. These activities also set out to determine whether young people think well-being should be measured for their age group, and if so, how.

A key finding of the research was that young people considered friends and family by far the most important to their well-being. Interpersonal relationships were therefore ranked highest as a key dimension of well-being, followed by how they socialise (sports, technology), and the spaces and times in which they socialise (home, school, weekend).

Wellbeing methodology - web

The students used post-it notes to channel their thoughts on the factors that make life good, and groups were asked to mark well-being categories on mannequin heads allocating more space to the most important categories. Story and information cards were also used to encourage discussion of other issues that might resonate with young people.

The research also confirmed that most young people agreed that well-being should be measured for their age group and that their voices and opinions should be listened to on an equal level to older age groups.

One of the report’s authors, Dr Julie Newton, Research Associate at BRASS, said: "They (young people) told us that measuring well-being is worthwhile and the majority agreed it was particularly relevant for their age group since they are the future generation who will have an impact on the future economy."

So far, the national debate has found that people believe it is important to measure well-being; stating health, friends and family, and job satisfaction as some of the key factors that influence well-being.

ONS will continue to gather subjective data from a household survey involving around 200,000 people, with the first results due to be published in July 2012.

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