The National Wellbeing Programme, Eight Years On

Ellen Lees
By Ellen Lees,
updated on Apr 26, 2018

The National Wellbeing Programme, Eight Years On

Eight years ago, the Office for National Statistics established the Measuring National Wellbeing programme to measure our quality of life in the UK. Now we have a snapshot of how we, as a nation, are coping with life

Once a year the Office for National Statistics (ONS) report the progress and change in a set of ‘headline indicators’, covering areas including our health, natural environment, personal finances and crime.

Traditionally focusing on these headline figures for the whole population, the MNW programme has changed tact. With an aspiration to “leave no one behind” they are taking a new approach, looking beneath the overall figures to understand more about people of different ages, and the impact different factors and life experiences can have on wellbeing.

The article, titled “Measuring National Well-being: Quality of life in the UK 2018” gives us an insight into how people of different ages are faring in the UK today. What it reveals is, perhaps, unexpected. While some of the data shows positive, potentially surprising information, it also highlights where improvements need to be made, and who we should be taking care of and why.

Silvia Manclossi, Head of Quality of Life Team at ONS said “There is a growing recognition that how we are doing as a nation is at least as much about people’s wellbeing as it is about the country’s economic health”

“This analysis shows the strengths and challenges of different age groups in society. These insights can help target services where they are most needed and can have the best impact.”

Key findings

  • Younger people (aged 16 to 24) were more likely to report higher rating of satisfaction with their health, and were more likely to engage in physical activity.

  • Unemployment, loneliness, having someone to rely on and lacking a sense of belonging were the main challenges for young people.

  • People in their early and middle years (aged 25 to 54) generally were more likely to be in employment, but were less likely to be satisfied with their leisure time.

  • Older people (aged 75 and over) were more likely to be satisfied with their income and leisure time. They generally felt they could cope financially, and felt they belonged in their neighbourhood.

  • For those aged 75 and over, the main challenges were lower satisfaction with their health, and lower engagement with an art or cultural activity.

Author of the article, Rhian Jones, who is Senior Research Officer for the ONS Wellbeing, Inequalities, Sustainability and Environment Division wrote:

“Looking at how life is going now for people of different ages in the UK has highlighted that, contrary to a commonly held belief that ageing involves loss and increased burden, those aged 65 and over are currently faring better on many measure of social and financial wellbeing than their younger counterparts.”

“Despite this, it’s important to remember that people aged 65 and over represent a diverse group, with those over 75 particularly noting less satisfaction with health as people move into their 80s.”

The programme also found that while younger people are more likely to be physically active and satisfied with their physical health than their elders, they are also more likely to report symptoms of poor mental health, and less likely to feel like they have someone to rely on.

While it’s common to think older people are more likely to experience loneliness, there is a clear issue here for younger people. Along with higher rates of unemployment, younger people are more frequently reporting feelings of loneliness.

On this, Jones wrote: “This matters both at an individual level and for society in terms of how well we will be able to sustain high levels of national wellbeing into the future”.

As for people aged 25 to 54, while they were more likely to be in employment, they face several challenges thought to be linked to higher demands placed on time, and difficulty finding a good balance between work and life commitments.

So, what's next?

This year, ONS are establishing a Centre of Expertise on Ageing and Demography and a Centre of Expertise for Inequalities, which aim to ensure that “the right data is available to address the main social and policy questions about fairness and equity in our society”.

ONS state that both centres will involve partnerships across government, academia and other organisations, with the hope of identifying where better evidence is needed and to make better use of both new and existing data sources.

What we will do

At Happiful, we are devoted to raising awareness and breaking the stigma of mental health. Our mission is to create a healthier, happier and more sustainable society, and to shine a light on the positivity and support that should be available for everyone.

We will continue to share your stories, and share resources and places of support in order to reach as many people as possible. Remember, you’re not alone in this.

You can read our articles on Reporting a Mental Health Issue at Work, and Navigating a Doctor’s Appointment for Mental Health. For support on loneliness, work-related stress and other mental health concerns, please visit Counselling Directory.

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