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Devon measures quality of life

Citizens in one part of Britain are challenging the assumption that economic activity is the best guide to quality of life, writes Diane Coyle.

The West Devon Environmental Network today launches a project to measure well-being using a mixture of conventional economic statistics and environmental indicators. The group claims it is the first such project to be run by local people for themselves.

The measures used, piloted by Judith Matthews, an academic at the University of Plymouth, will range from unemployment to the incidence of asthma, water quality and damsel fly numbers.

The West Devon initiative is part of a trend that has started to filter through to more conventional assessments. Two new publications compare countries on the basis of environmental and quality of life indicators.

The United Nations Human Development Report and a survey from the OECD include indicators ranging from inequality and unemployment to crime rates and greenhouse gas emissions.