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December 14, 2020

Wellbeing the yardstick

To paraphrase Robert Kennedy, ‘GDP measures everything except that which makes life worth living. He said something to that effect in 1968 and despite loads of rhetoric to the contrary, GDP still rules supreme as the principal measure of how well we’re doing as a society. Carnegie UK have long since recognised the need for a more meaningful device and for some years have been tracking a number of indicators of Gross Domestic Wellbeing (GDWe). Their recent findings indicate Wellbeing was in decline long before Covid struck but nonetheless this could be a useful yardstick of our recovery.

Carnegie UK


Gross Domestic Wellbeing (GDWe)™ offers a holistic alternative to GDP as a measure of social progress. Using the framework and data in the Office for National Statistics Measures of National Wellbeing Dashboard, the Trust has developed a tool that provides a single figure for GDWe in England and mapped this against GDP for the past six years.

We have supplemented this analysis with a thematic review of over 800 recommendations from nearly 50 commissions and inquiries since 2010 – from Marmot to Grimsey, Dilnot to Taylor – to highlight the many areas of mutual focus, challenge, and concern. The recommendations show that though the data currently being collected by the ONS offers a useful starting point and a framework for measuring wellbeing, there are significant gaps.

In this summary, we provide an overview of the main findings, which show that GDWe was in decline before the COVID-19 pandemic began. We have also produced a full report with detailed domain analysis and methodology, available here.