What Works Wellbeing operated from 2014 to 2024. This website is a static repository of all assets captured at closure on 30 April. It will remain publicly accessible but will not be updated.  Read more
Apr 25, 2018 | by Centre

Measuring National Wellbeing: Quality of Life in the UK, 2018

Today the Office for National Statistics releases its annual article on the wellbeing of the UK. Rhian Jones and Chris Randall, Quality of Life, Office for National Statistics share the headlines.

Once a year, we report progress against a set of headline indicators covering ten areas including our health, natural environment, personal finances and crime.

Traditionally, this has focused mainly on headline figures for the whole population. To increase the value of our work to decision-makers and in keeping with our aspiration to ‘leave no one behind’, we are taking a new approach. We now look beneath the overall figures to understand how people of different ages may be struggling or thriving in the UK today.

Key findings

  • Older people fare well, but 75+ less satisfied with health

Those aged 65 and over are currently faring better on many measures of social and financial wellbeing than their younger counterparts. However, it is important to remember that people aged 65 and over represent a diverse group, with those over 75 particularly noting less satisfaction with health as people move into their 80s.

  • Younger adults experience poorer mental health, loneliness and unemployment

Among younger adults (broadly from 16 to 24), we have highlighted a range of ways in which their experiences of life in the UK today appear to be more challenging. Compared to older people, they are more likely to be:

  • physically active
  • more satisfied with their physical health.

However, they also:

  • are more likely to report symptoms of mental ill health
  • are less likely to feel they have someone to rely on or a sense of belonging in their neighbourhood
  • have higher rates of unemployment and more frequently report loneliness.

This matters both at an individual level and for society as a whole, in terms of how well we will be able to sustain high levels of national wellbeing into the future.

  • Early and middle aged adults less satisfied with work-life balance

Those in their early and middle years are generally more likely to be in employment but face several challenges that may be linked to more demands placed on their time and the more difficult balance between work and family commitments. In particular, those people aged 25 to 54 are less likely to be satisfied with their leisure time.

Next steps

This year, we are establishing a Centre of Expertise on Ageing and Demography. This will set out our ambition for a comprehensive and coherent workplan for improving the evidence on the impacts of an ageing population.

We will also be establishing a Centre of Expertise for Inequalities. The aim of this centre will be to ensure that the right data are available to address the main social and policy questions about fairness and equity in our society, that the relevant analysis is taken forward and that we are using the most appropriate methods.

Both these centres will involve partnerships across government, academia and other organisations to identify where better evidence is needed and to make better use of new and existing data sources.

Have your say!