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Money alone cannot buy happiness, says new report

The Global Analysis of Wellbeing Report was written by a team of researchers led by Paul Anand, Professor of Economics at the Open University. It was published on Tuesday (March 20) to coincide with the UN’s International Day of Happiness.

The report highlights the different ways that national statistic offices in different countries around the world are looking beyond traditional economic measures like GDP in order to assess prosperity and progress.

Prof Anand said: “The case studies featured in our report show that, while different countries are doing it in different ways, there is a growing general agreement that quality of life needs to be about more than just money, wealth, and traditional measures of economic growth.

“How people feel about life, or their public services, is of importance to politicians and citizens alike and it can also be of relevance to business and help aid economic development.”

The report looks at the measurement of wellbeing and happiness in nine countries: Australia, Austria, Belarus, Bhutan, Bolivia, Denmark, Israel, Sweden, and the UK. It also considers initiatives by the international Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

It also shows at how different civil society organisations are using wellbeing measurements to support their work, including Oxfam, the New Economics Foundation, The Children’s Society, UK-based charity Happy City, and The Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship, a non-profit organisation based in Bengaluru, India.

The report goes on to features personal perspectives on wellbeing from former UK Cabinet Secretary Lord Gus O’Donnell and Canadian economist Prof John F. Helliwell, editor of the UN’s World Happiness Report.

Prof Anand said: “We are very grateful to all the different participants around the world who shared their knowledge with us. Our hope is that the report will share their experience and knowledge more widely, and inform the thinking of different national governments and national statistics agencies when it comes to measuring wellbeing in the future.”

The report concludes with seven recommendations to inform the future measurement of wellbeing around the world:

  • Measure Life Quality in Multiple Domains

Quality of life depends on work, family and home, community and physical environment and the achievements on all these dimensions can and should be monitored.

  • Involve A Range of Stakeholders in the Development of Such Data

It is important, if not vital, to involve people in their roles as citizens or service consumers in the development of data both for relevance and use.

  • Standardise Measures 

At national and international level, there is a need for countries to standardise on some key questions.

  • Measure Across the Life-Course

Life quality indicators should be developed that are relevant to all age groups and in the relevant major settings, home, education, work and care.

  • Use Panel Data where Possible

Many of these life quality indicators should be embedded within panel surveys (e.g. household) so that high quality analyses can be performed which in turn will contribute to policy use.

  • Use and Develop Data Opportunities, Abilities and Constraints

Measures of opportunities and constraints are forward looking and offer a particularly policy-relevant way forward for reflecting the multidimensionality of life quality and concepts such as autonomy and empowerment.

  • Use (some) Subjective Measures

Subjective wellbeing can be measured reliably and its use in good quality models sheds light on the drivers of happiness as people experience it.

The report was produced with funding from the Oxford Foundation for Knowledge Exchange. It can be viewed at http://globalwellbeingreport.org/.

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