After a week’s holiday its probably a good day to write a blog about happiness and wellbeing. Yesterday the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed the questions it has included within its national household survey that will capture the views of 200,000 people over the age of 16. Measuring happiness is nothing new, i’ve blogged previously about how the kingdom of Bhutan builds Gross National Happiness into its system of government. ONS survey participants will be asked to give answers on a scale of 0 to 10 to the following questions:
- Overall, how satisfied are you with your 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?
At a time of austerity and rising unemployment the answers will be fascinating, particularly given the subjective nature of happiness. However including these questions within the wider question set of the survey will allow ONS statisticians to compare the results with other factors such as income, employment and lifestyle data. The hope is that indications of the factors that influence happiness and wellbeing will then emerge.
For the UK the real benefit will come if and when its politicians, like those in Bhutan, start actively considering the impact of policies on the nation’s wellbeing and happiness, rather than just on economic measures such as GDP. If this is done with real seriousness it has the potential to change the political landscape. In recent years the social policies of the left and the economic policies of the right has given the UK a government operating in the centre. However evidence shows that the economic policies of the left (financial distribution, progressive taxation) combined with social policies of the right (marriage, family values, national identity) can result in greater happiness.