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Oct 26, 2023 | by What Works Centre for Wellbeing

Autumn wellbeing highlights: recent findings and research from 2023

In our last summer highlights blog, we provided an update on our findings and research. Since then, it’s continued to be an important year for understanding what works to improve wellbeing. Together with partners, we’ve been finding, sharing, and growing wellbeing evidence, whilst supporting organisations and people to use it.

We’ve increased our knowledge in our focus areas of national wellbeing measures and methods, places and community, working age, and loneliness and connection.

Here, we bring together our most recent learnings, summarise our findings and include future updates to look out for.

A wellbeing approach

  • In September, we embarked on a new research programme to identify high-quality evidence on life satisfaction. Insights will be used to inform experimental research and policy-relevant outcomes to improve wellbeing.  As part of the project, we are conducting a systematic review of the life satisfaction literature and will produce a trials strategy for using life satisfaction in experimental research. This builds on a measures review we conducted in 2021, looking at evaluations which used the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scales (WEMWBS). 
  • One of our key reports Wellbeing evidence at the heart of policy explains how a wellbeing approach can help inform, evaluate and drive decision making. It covers, connects and cuts across many of our key focus areas. It introduces the WISER policy priorities, summarising wellbeing evidence in a practical way. In a recent blog, we discussed key insights from the report and related resources. 

National wellbeing measures and methods

We are working towards wellbeing being recognised as a meaningful and measurable goal for decision makers in the UK, used alongside metrics such as GDP and life expectancy to assess national progress.

Moving the evidence base forward – call for evidence

Creativity and wellbeing – Recently, we collected evidence on activities that involve creativity and their connection to individual wellbeing. This knowledge will be used as part of our rapid scoping review, on behalf of the University of the Arts London. The project will help enable evidence-informed decision making for positive social change.

Key highlights

  • Conceptualising and measuring hope – We discussed the importance of capturing what keeps us well, and looked at an example of the measurement of hope and optimism through the #BeeWell survey of secondary school pupils across Greater Manchester.
    – We’ll be continuing our exploration of hope, in conversation with wellbeing expert Carol Graham, on Wednesday 1 November, 18:00 – 19:00. Register now for the free online event.
  • Children’s wellbeing in 2023  – We reflected on The Good Childhood Report 2023 from the Children’s Society, and identified key findings and trends about children’s wellbeing. We discussed why consistently capturing a picture of how young people feel is important for our nation’s current and future wellbeing.
  • Happiness evidence – We looked at findings from a systematic review of the strength of evidence for common happiness strategies, conducted by psychologists Dunigan Folk and Professor Elizabeth Dunn. We summarised their findings and discussed what’s next for happiness research and application.
  • Global guidelines for measuring subjective wellbeing – A decade on from the OECD’s guidelines, we summarised their new paper that reviewed how the guidance has been adopted in OECD countries and where it needs to go next.

Places and community

We’re exploring how community wellbeing can be measured, built, and understood as more than the sum of individual wellbeing.

Key highlights

  • Intergenerational evidence and practice –  Alongside the Co-founder of Intergenerational England, we considered the potential challenges of an age-segregated society and how to approach growing the evidence base for intergenerational practice.
  • Taking a wellbeing approach to health – Our Executive Director Nancy Hey, contributed to ‘A Covenant for Health’ with a perspective and analysis on the crucial link between health and wellbeing. In our blog, we shared the piece and talked about a new UK strategy targeting major health conditions.
  • Physical activity and young people – We shared our knowledge and understanding about promoting wellbeing within and through physical activity, at a Youth Summit in July hosted by the Youth Sport Trust. In a subsequent blog, we reflected on the summit, discussed the link between physical activity and wellbeing, and linked to further resources.

Loneliness and connection

Social connections are found to be one of the strongest drivers of wellbeing. As such, alleviating loneliness and improving social connections across the life course in the UK are key priorities for our work. 

New evidence

To help tackle loneliness and promote social connection, we worked with the  Campaign to End Loneliness to grow the loneliness evidence base, consolidating insights from published literature and the experience of practitioners.

This new synthesis can be used to shape further research and policymaking, as well as guide funding decisions and practitioner activity. The project involved a rapid systematic review and stakeholder engagement. The new findings were launched in a virtual event in September. You can now watch a recording of the session.

In our blog, we summarised key highlights, research implications and recommendations for action – whilst launching key publications including a summary briefing and full reports.

Working age 

Whether we have a job or not and the quality of that work are important drivers of wellbeing. Wellbeing should be at the heart of how we shape jobs, organisations and working practices. 

Our focus is on existing and future employment; this includes young people and students, whose experiences impact their current wellbeing but can influence their job opportunities and later wellbeing too.

New Evidence Hub

  • Student Mental Health Evidence Hub – Together, with a consortium of partners, we’ve produced a Hub that will help universities and colleges provide support for students. For its launch, we discussed the evidence base, summarised the Hub, and explored further resources and learnings. Explore the Hub.

Key highlights 

  • Young people’s employment – We discussed the link between wellbeing and work for young people, summarised a ‘Youth Employment Toolkit’ from the Young Futures Foundation, and presented further resources and information.
  • Wellbeing in workspaces – In a guest blog, Dr Sophie Keller discussed her research into workspace design to promote wellbeing. She described her approach to identifying and practically applying wellbeing principles in a realworld office redesign.

Looking ahead

As we look towards the end of the year and the start of the 2024, there are plenty of updates to look out for:

Dates for your diary

  • The power of hope: In conversation with Carol Graham – Join us online for this insightful event on Wednesday 1 November 2023, 18:00 – 19:00, where we’ll be talking to the wellbeing expert, economist and author. The evening will explore the future of wellbeing measurement and what we can do to encourage hope.
  • Supporting employees with terminal illness: lessons from practiceIn partnership with Marie Curie and a cohort of professionals from different sectors, we have been developing workplace policies and approaches. In our webinar, we’ll be sharing our learning and exploring how to provide compassionate, flexible, and practical support for employees and guidance for line managers. Thursday 16 November 2023, 10:30 – 12.00.  More about the project.
  • Loneliness: The next five years – Booking is open for the Campaign to End Loneliness’ online International Conference. It will explore what’s next for tackling loneliness, five years on from the UK’s first loneliness strategy. Thursday 8 February 2024, 10:00 – 17:00.

Future projects and publications

  • Analysis of the Health Index – The Health Index for England measures health at local authority, regional and national levels allowing us to track changes by geography and over time. We are exploring how health interacts with subjective wellbeing measures.
  • ONS quarterly update – The Office for National Statistics’ forthcoming release in November will provide updated data on indicators of wellbeing, including some recently added measures. We will be analysing the latest data and what it tells us about national wellbeing.
  • Last month, we supported the Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Observatory’s Barometer survey, focusing on the sector’s attitudes to wellbeing. The results were published this week. Alongside Nottingham Trent University and Pro Bono Economics, we led an online session for survey respondents reflecting on the findings and sharing useful resources. Look out for the webinar recording in our newsletter soon.

Sign up to receive our weekly email updates for future news, launches and opportunities. 

We always love to hear from you, so please get in touch if you’d like to collaborate with us or discuss any of our work.


Jan 5, 2023 | By What Works Centre for Wellbeing
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2022 Impact – Our year in review
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