Health, not wealth, makes us happy

 

For children it is eating breakfast and celebrating Christmas. Young adults find theirs through music, clothes and fast food. For people of more mature years, the greatest happiness is bestowed through old-fashioned community spirit. All ages, however, seem to agree that, fleeting pleasures aside, there is a holy trinity when it comes to how positive we feel about ourselves and where we live: good health, functioning relationships and a satisfying job.

These are the preliminary findings of Britain's first attempt to quantify a phenomenon that has until now been the preserve of poets and songwriters rather than statisticians. But David Cameron's determination that a happiness (or more accurately a wellbeing) index should become part of the way we measure ourselves as a society moved closer to being realised yesterday. The publication by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) of its initial report contained the responses of 34,000 people asked what aspects of their lives might be considered in the new measurement.

The £2m survey was ordered last year by the Prime Minister, a confessed optimist. From next summer, the index could be quoted alongside gross domestic product and longevity as a measure of national progress and a measure of policy success.

The responses received over the past 10 months – either online or during 175 public events with employers, religious groups, schools and others – will go towards creating the first set of national well-being indicators in the autumn with the publication of the initial ratings in July 2012. While suggestions varied by age and social grouping there were universal themes,said national statistician Jill Matheson. "People of all ages highlighted the importance of family, friends, health, financial security, equality and fairness in determining well-being," she said. Britain is not alone in attempting to create a functioning quality of life index. One of the ONS's advisory forum members is the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who has been involved in a similar exercise on behalf of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The British index will be drawn from two data sets. The first will be subjective assessments of an individual's own wellbeing level. More than 200,000 people have already completed the four questions in this April's integrated household survey, which asked respondents to mark themselves between one and 10 on satisfaction, anxiety, happiness and whether they felt their lives were worthwhile.

More questions are likely to be put in the ONS monthly opinions survey, based on the themes that emerged during the consultation, including sense of purpose and fulfilment, relationships and job satisfaction. Objective measures, including life expectancy and disposable income, may also be counted.

The eventual questionnaire could look as follows:

* Answer (on a scale from one to 10):

Overall, how satisfied are you with life nowadays?

Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?

Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?

Overall, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?



* Other questions (yet to be designed) will focus on sense of purpose and fulfilment; relationships with family and friends; leisure time; access to green spaces, levels of job satisfaction and sense of community.



* Objective wellbeing would then be measured by:

Life expectancy
Health
Household income
Consumption levels
Access to subsidised health and education systems
Value of goods and services produced by each household

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine