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Happy talk: 34,000 Brits tell ONS national wellbeing should be measured

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People in the UK believe that national well-being should be measured, stating health, friends and family, and job satisfaction as some of the key things that should feature in the measurements, according to a report on the National Wellbeing Debate published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The national debate on 'what matters to you?' - often referred to as the Government's Happiness Index - which was launched by the prime minister in November 2010, generated more than 34,000 responses, online and via events.

People across the UK gave their views on the things that matter most to them in life, for their individual wellbeing and for measuring the well-being of the UK. The prime minister has faced criticism because the programme costs £2m per year and has produced some obvious findings.

Common themes to be reflected in the design of measurement indicators are: health; good connections with friends and family; job satisfaction and economic security; present and future conditions of the environment; and education and training. The first set of national well-being indicators will be published in the autumn, for comment and further development.

ONS statistician Jil Matheson, who compiled the report, said: "The response to the debate was huge and thoughtful. The UK public were definitely keen to tell us what is important to them and I am pleased that we have been able to give so many people a place to discuss what national wellbeing means on both a personal and national level."

"People of all ages highlighted the importance of family, friends, health, financial security, equality and fairness in determining wellbeing.

"However, this is not just about holding a debate, it is about finding robust ways to measure how society is doing, to complement GDP and other measures of economic growth. As we work up measures of national wellbeing and progress, we will continue to share our ideas. It is essential that the set of measures of well-being is relevant and well-based in what matters to people, both as individuals and for the UK as a whole. "

"The UK is not alone in wanting to develop better measures of National Well-being. We are working with international partners in developing measures of well-being that will paint a fuller picture of our societies. This is a long-term programme.

"The ONS will continue to consult with users and policy makers as we develop the measures. This will ensure that UK wellbeing measures are reliable and impartial and improve our understanding of the UK's society."

As well as holding the debate, the ONS started in April to measure subjective (individual) well-being by including four new questions in the Integrated Household Survey (IHS).

Approximately 200,000 people are being asked to rate their 'life satisfaction' on a scale of nought to 10, as well as how happy and how anxious they feel, and the extent to which the things they do in life are worthwhile.

The first annual results will be available in July 2012. ONS plans to make interim results available, based on part year data, including helping to design presentations of the new subjective well-being information.