As many of us will remember, in 2006 David Cameron made several speeches relaying his idea of a more compassionate conservatism. Among his ideas was the GWB, the general well-being of the nation, saying how he believed our society’s sense of well-being was the central political challenge of our times.
Cameron stuck to his word and instigated a national measure of well-being. This means that as part of the annual population survey, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) surveys over 150,000 Britons about their well-being. Recently local data has been released, allowing further analysis and more in-depth responses.
Recently it was revealed that Harlow in Essex is considered the unhappiest town in the UK (scoring 6.8 out of 10), while Fermanagh in Northern Ireland is considered the happiest (scoring 8.2 out of 10).
Gathering this type of data allows us to challenge assumptions as to what really makes us happy. For example, in London, the area considered the wealthiest, 30 out of 34 boroughs are reported to be below average for well-being, while in poorer areas such as Northern Ireland, 24 out of 26 districts were reported to exceed the national average.
Questions within the survey included whether or not we feel safe at home, if we are suffering from noise/air pollution, if there are good local services and if we have access to green spaces. Local authorities are now in a better position to create policies to improve the population’s well-being. While some political commentators consider happiness to be individualistic, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The stats have revealed that one particular area of importance to consider when addressing the nation’s well-being is relationships. As relational beings, our connections to others plays an important part in our well-being and it is thought that local governments should focus their attention on helping people make better connections. This could include designing local spaces for people to meet, giving people the opportunity to socialise more often.
Putting a focus on well-being allows us to reimagine life in 21st century Britain – will we continue to focus on economic issues or place more importance on making better places to live, work and raise a family? A new approach is definitely needed, and with the ONS offering such conclusive data it is hoped that this will be the case.