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January 28, 2009

Measure Wellbeing – not just Economic Growth

Scottish Government measures all policy in relation to how it contributes to sustainable economic growth – but are there more effective ways of measuring human progress? Over many years, the New Economics Foundation has developed a way of measuring what they call ‘Wellbeing’ – Britain ranks 13th out of 22 European countries.

The United Kingdom’s population enjoys the 13th best levels of wellbeing out of the 22 countries surveyed by a think tank that has developed a way of measuring wellbeing.

The New Economics Foundation’s (nef) National Accounts of Wellbeing take into account personal aspects; self-esteem, vitality, sense of purpose; and social aspects of wellbeing such as supportive relationships and trust in compiling a ranking of well-being for 22 European countries.

Its study found the UK came 13th in the rankings of the nations surveyed with UK citizens aged between 16 and 24 reporting the third-lowest levels of trust and belonging on both aspects of wellbeing.

The nef says the drop in the level of social satisfaction in the UK could indicate the rise of a more individualistic culture as those aged 75 or over showed much higher levels of trust and belonging in society.

The nef’s Nic Marks said: “Governments have lost sight of fact that their fundamental purpose is to improve the lives of their citizens. Instead they have become obsessed with maximising economic growth to the exclusion of other concerns, ignoring the impact that this has on people’s wellbeing.

“The UK’s long hours culture and record levels of personal debt, have squeezed out opportunities for individuals, families and communities to make choices and pursue activities that would best promote personal and social wellbeing. What’s more, the model of unending economic growth is fast taking us beyond environmental limits.

“These arguments make a compelling case for very different measures of human progress,” he added.

Commenting on the survey, a communities and local government spokeswoman said: “The 2007-08 Citizenship Survey – a robust, nationally representative household survey – found that 94 per cent of young people say they feel part of British society.

“We recognise that young people are a key part of society and play a crucial part in addressing issues facing their communities,” she added.

Denmark, Switzerland and Norway showed the highest levels of overall wellbeing in the nef’s report while Central and Eastern European countries such as Ukraine, Bulgaria and Hungary came last in the institute’s rankings.