Health, Not Wealth, Makes Us Happy (No Wonder PM's Smiling)
Brown, Jonathan, The Independent (London, England)
For children it is eating breakfast and celebrating Christmas. Young adults find theirs through music, clothes and fast food. For people of more mature years, the greatest happiness is bestowed through old-fashioned community spirit. All ages, however, seem to agree that, fleeting pleasures aside, there is a holy trinity when it comes to how positive we feel about ourselves and where we live: good health, functioning relationships and a satisfying job.
These are the preliminary findings of Britain's first attempt to quantify a phenomenon that has until now been the preserve of poets and songwriters rather than statisticians. But David Cameron's determination that a happiness (or more accurately a wellbeing) index should become part of the way we measure ourselves as a society moved closer to being realised yesterday. The publication by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) of its initial report contained the responses of 34,000 people asked what aspects of their lives might be considered in the new measurement.
The 2m survey was ordered last year by the Prime Minister, a confessed optimist. From next summer, the index could be quoted alongside gross domestic product and longevity as a measure of national progress and a measure of policy success.
The responses received over the past 10 months - either online or during 175 public events with employers, religious groups, schools and others - will go towards creating the first set of national well- being indicators in the autumn with the publication of the initial ratings in July 2012. While suggestions varied by age and social grouping there were universal themes,said national statistician Jill Matheson. "People of all ages highlighted the importance of family, friends, health, financial security, equality and fairness in determining well-being," she said. Britain is not alone in attempting to create a functioning quality of life index. One of the ONS's advisory forum members is the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who has been involved in a similar exercise on behalf of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The British index will be drawn from two data sets. …