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Jul 6, 2023 | by Nancy Hey

Progress beyond GDP: using the updated UK Measures of National Wellbeing July 2023

Wellbeing is about quality of life and creating the conditions for people to live better lives. To achieve and sustain progress, and inform decision making, we need high quality, rapid and relevant feedback on how we’re doing.

Since our foundation almost nine years ago, we’ve utilised data produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) National Wellbeing Framework. We have now contributed our expertise to ONS’ measures review – the first major update of the UK framework – to help shape and understand the future of wellbeing measurement and ensure information is robust, representative and useful. 

Here we summarise findings from the review report, Beyond GDP: what matters to national wellbeing, launched yesterday (Wednesday 5 July) at an event led by The National Statistician Professor Sir Ian Diamond and featuring our Executive Director Nancy Hey. 

Summary of key updates

Following a public consultation and review 2022-2023, the ONS has updated its National Wellbeing Framework for the first time. 

Outcomes from the ONS review:

  • The framework is now known as the UK Measures of National Well-being (UK MNW).
  • The 10 domain structure for the wellbeing dashboard remains the same, but definitions of each one have been updated. Domains include the core drivers of wellbeing including  ‘Health’, ‘Relationships’ and ‘Economy’.
  • The data dashboard has been updated to provide more timely, clearly described UK wide data with demographic and geographic breakdowns needed for practical use.
  • Subjective wellbeing measures (ONS4) will now focus on people with low wellbeing rather than high wellbeing.
  • The revised framework contains more measures overall; there are now 60 (an increase from 44), including 22 new measures.
  • Will continue to be published quarterly.

New and under development measures include:

  • Hope and Fairness.
  • Satisfaction with a range of services, such as healthcare, education, police, courts and the legal system. This type of data is practically useful for service improvements. 
  • Satisfaction with both Social Relationships e.g. Friendships and Partner relationships alongside Loneliness and Community relationships. 
  • Local community integration – people who agree or strongly agree that people from different backgrounds get on well together in their local area, alongside the original measures of Social Support, Trust in others and Belonging. This now covers both bonding and bridging social capital. 
  • Physical health conditions alongside mental health conditions, and healthy life expectancy.
  • Satisfaction with time use, health and skills. 
  • Digital exclusion – people who have not used the internet in the last three months or have never used the internet.
  • Consumer confidence.
  • Environment measures: biodiversity, air and water pollution, environmental lifestyle changes. 

Removed measures:

  • Mental Wellbeing (WEMWBS) – due to lack of measurement frequency. 
  • Disability – objective health conditions data will be used instead.
  • Leisure Time Satisfaction – Time Use satisfaction will be used.
  • Frequency of Volunteering – to avoid duplication  of volunteering measures.

For a full list of domains and measures, see the full report.

The ONS have started gathering data from some of the new measures added. You can find highlights or explore all new data in their dashboard.

About the framework

The National Measure Wellbeing Programme began in the UK in 2011, following a public consultation on what matters most to people.

To build on the rich and growing data produced by the ONS, and following the Commission on Wellbeing and Policy, the What Works Centre for Wellbeing was established in 2014. We are focused on using evidence to understand what local and national governments, and voluntary and business partners can do to increase wellbeing and alleviate misery. In 2020 we updated the Commission’s report with Wellbeing at the Heart of Policy.

After over a decade of use, the national framework and its indicators have been reviewed and updated. We have contributed our expertise and experience in how to use and communicate this data in practice to the update.

Beyond GDP: progress and our national accounts

Metrics like GDP and life expectancy have been traditional measures of national progress. Both are important, but they are only part of the bigger picture of what drives quality of life.

To get a full picture of our national accounts, we need analysis of economic, societal and environmental indicators. All three should be part of our full national accounts and not just purely economic measurement. This is the Blue Book.

Through their review, ONS continues to bring together our hidden wealth to “understand that ‘ordinary business of life'” as Sir Ian Diamond described it.

Taking a wellbeing approach enables us all – across the country – to have agency to shape the future. It shifts away from economic metrics alone and towards:

  • A focus on what we want our lives to be like.
  • Outcomes that matter to people’s lives not only inputs and outputs.
  • A focus on prevention and promotion, not just treatment.
  • The diversity of experience, often hidden under averages.
  • A way to consider risk, resilience and preparedness, and the broad ranging capital we need to build and sustain future wellbeing.

For a more in-depth discussion about the role and use of official statistics in measuring wellbeing, read Paul Allin’s discussion paper. It explores ways in which both the producers and the users of statistics can help increase the use and usefulness of all statistics needed for the public good.

Capturing the data is great: using it is even better

Here we have collated a selection of our resources and information, and links to other What Works Centres, that can help with data use:

1. Policy making 

2. Local areas and public health

Local area policy making across the UK . Providing insights at a local area level as well as national is valuable. ONS have indicated that later this year, they will be “publishing statistics on individual personal wellbeing by a range of characteristics.”

3. Practice Examples of real-world measurement 

4. Improve the outcome measures in the domains with projects that work

Personal wellbeing 


Our relationships

See also:

Campaign to End Loneliness 

Foundations What Works Centre for Children and Families 

Youth Endowment Foundation


Our health

See also National Institute for Health and Care Excellence 


What we do 

See also 

What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth

Centre for Aging Better 


Where we live 

See also:

Youth Endowment Foundation 

College of Policing

Centre for Aging Better 

Centre for Homelessness Impact 

What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth


Skills, education and adult learning

See also:
Youth Futures Foundation

Education Endowment Foundation  

What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth 

TASO – Student Access and Participation 


Our democracy


Personal finance

See Money and Pensions Service 


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