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UK Politics

Government set to measure UK happiness

An attempt to officially measure the UK's happiness is to be launched by the Government, it was reported today.

In Opposition, David Cameron called for "general wellbeing" to be assessed alongside traditional economic indicators as there was "more to life than money".

And later this month he will ask the Office for National Statistics to devise new questions for the regular household survey, the Guardian said.

The assessment could start as soon as next spring with the results published regularly - possibly on a quarterly basis, it suggested.

Such a move has been pushed by two Nobel Prize-winning economists and is being considered by other countries, including France and Canada.

But the move was said to have been causing anxiety in Downing Street at a time when deep public spending cuts are beginning to bite.

Months after becoming Tory leader in 2005, Mr Cameron said gauging people's wellbeing was among the "central political issues of our time".

"It's time we admitted that there's more to life than money, and it's time we focused not just on GDP but on GWB - general wellbeing," Mr Cameron said at the time.

Almost 30 MPs have signed a Commons motion calling for the move, arguing that promoting happiness and well-being is a legitimate and important goal of government".

Other surveys showed the UK's happiness had remained broadly static for at least 25 years, it says, arguing that the data should be used to inform policy.

The Guardian quoted a Downing Street source saying the data could include items such as recycling rates as well as "subjective measures of psychology and attitudes".

"Next time we have a comprehensive spending review, let's not just guess what effect various policies will have on people's wellbeing. Let's actually know," the source said.

Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson, who tabled the Commons motion, said: "This is a positive and forward-looking move by the Government, which will give us a much better idea of the health of UK society.

"Relying solely on GDP to track the nation's progress excludes many of the things that we all know to be important, but that can't be measured by money.

"What gets measured gets done. While it's not government's job to make people happy, regular measures of wellbeing will at least make sure it is taken into account."