Well-Being Reports: A Broader Economic Picture

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Are happiness reports the key to understanding the true economic state of a nation? Image credit: Craig Parylo

The National Office of Statistics (ONS) in the United Kingdom recently posted results of the most recent survey in what has been dubbed the ‘happiness index.’

The scheme, which aims to report on factors affecting well-being of residents, signifies the realization of the Prime Minister’s aims to use statistics on happiness side-by-side with financial figures such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

What the ONS Survey Covers

The ONS reports are primarily focused on two areas – locality and health, with the organization claiming strong links between satisfaction in the area in which one lives to a general feeling of well-being, and claiming that health issues are the primary factor in decreasing an individual’s sense of overall happiness.

The plan that endorses the publishing of statistics on happiness aims to provide a more rounded view of the nation than is offered by financial reporting alone, at a cost to the government of around £2 million per year.

Happiness Measurement: An Established Theory

The introduction of social economics into the facts and figures seen to determine a country’s success is, however, not a new approach. The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) has long recognized the importance of social data in economic reporting, and launched its ‘Better Life Index‘ in May, 2011. The report compares various factors of well-being in 36 countries across the world, providing satisfaction reports on 11 “essential” areas, which include housing, income, health, and work-life balance. The Better Life Index, along with the support for plans such as David Cameron’s happiness index in Britain, aims to provide real data that can be used in conjunction with financial information.

The OECD Index project is built on participation, inviting online visitors to share their own ratings and compare and contrast their scores with others of a similar demographic. Currently, Australia is ranked highest in their reporting charts, scoring highly in all areas of assessment, closely followed by Denmark, then Canada. The United States is ranked sixth, with the UK trailing in eleventh place. Work-life balance receives the lowest score in the US, whilst the UK is floundering in the education category.

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