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Apr 6, 2023 | by Robyn Bignall-Donnelly

Spring wellbeing highlights: what we’ve learned so far in 2023

The first quarter of 2023 has been a busy time for the Centre and the year looks set to be an important one for wellbeing evidence. Already, we have seen a wealth of wellbeing reports, analysis and research. In these first few months, our resources have been downloaded over 5,100 times, and in February more people visited our website than ever before. 

Here, we highlight what we’ve learnt so far across national wellbeing measures and methods, places and community, working age, and loneliness and connection.

National wellbeing measures and methods

Our mission is to improve wellbeing in the UK and make sure it’s sustainable for the future. To do this, we need to continue to develop a robust understanding of what works through consistent measurement and methodology.

Moving the evidence base forward:

  • Wellbeing evaluation top-up fund – We announced our two-year pilot programme to enable the expansion of 15 trials to include measures of subjective wellbeing.

Leading the conversation and amplifying wider findings:

  • Measuring Wellbeing Series – We published a new paper in our series to spur discussion about how best we might measure inequalities in wellbeing in a way that reflects the lived experience of people in society, and which allows useful comparisons to be made across groups of people and across time. 
  • Wellbeing and debt– We summarised key insights from the Office for National Statistics into how the cost of living is impacting UK wellbeing.
  • Children’s wellbeingCentre Associate Richard Crellin explored insights from the Department for Education’s fourth instalment of its annual reports looking at how young people are doing in the UK. 
  • Core components of a wellbeing framework – Our Head of Implementation, Joanne Smithson, took us through key insights from the Centre for Thriving Places’ discussion paper to explore how to find – and tailor – the right framework for your specific context. 

Places and community

The people we know and the places where we live, work and spend time have an impact on our wellbeing. Our latest publications, projects and reviews have added to our understanding of community wellbeing in a number of areas.

Moving the evidence base forward:

  • Places, spaces and social connection: an update. Five years on from our original review, we updated our publication about how changes impact quality of life. This is the first time we have undertaken a refresh of this kind.
  • Wellbeing evaluation in practice – Stewart Martin, our Civil Society and Community Wellbeing Lead, considered what robust and appropriate wellbeing measurement looks like, with a focus on the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector. 
  • Rural wellbeing – We contributed to a project to understand what works to improve wellbeing in rural communities and support policymakers to use this in decision making. As project advisors, we shared our evidence, evaluation and implementation expertise to help develop a new wellbeing framework for rural settings.
  • Infrastructure and wellbeing – We contributed to the National Infrastructure Commission’s Quality of Life discussion paper on the natural and built environment.

Leading the conversation and amplifying wider findings:

  • The role of power, agency and control in wellbeing – Featuring a guest blog from Dr Radha Modgil, exploring ideas of personal power and how they might benefit individuals and communities.
  • Civil society and Civic Strength – Executive Director, Nancy Hey, discussed the Law Family Commission’s report in the context of civil society as a hidden engine of a high wellbeing nation, and how the Centre supports the sector.

Working age and workplace

Whether we have a job or not is the third biggest factor associated with our wellbeing, after our mental and physical health and our personal relationships. We are continuing to develop our understanding of what works and helping turn evidence into action.

Moving the evidence base forward:

  • What jobs make us happy? – We looked at 10 years of UK labour market data to explore the relationship between life satisfaction and job types. The analysis formed the basis for an expert panel discussion as part of our Business Leaders’ Council event series. Watch the webinar.

Leading the conversation and amplifying wider findings:

Loneliness and Connection 

Loneliness can seriously impact our wellbeing and ability to function in society. It has been linked to poor physical and mental health, and has potentially adverse effects on communities.  Since 2021 we have worked formally with the Campaign to End Loneliness, bringing together our shared knowledge on loneliness, civil society, community and connection across the lifecourse.

Moving the evidence base forward:

  • Loneliness in young people – We added to what we know with the publication of a fourth paper focusing on mental health and loneliness in Scottish schools. This is to help address the evidence gap and collective understanding in this field.

Leading the conversation and amplifying wider findings:

  • Tackling loneliness conference – In February, we brought together speakers and attendees from across business, academia, policy and practice to consider different aspects of loneliness. Speakers included Dr Vivek Murthy (US Surgeon General), Kim Leadbeater (MP) and John Leland (New York Times). Around 250 people attended the conference and many more engaged online, with our posts on social media viewed over 1.3 million times on the day alone. 

A huge thank you to everyone who has accessed our information or contributed to our work so far, whether that’s engaging with our resources, collaborating with us on new research, or subscribing to our weekly newsletter. 

Looking ahead

In the next few months, keep a look out for our wellbeing events, analysis and further research:

  • Join us for our next Business Leaders Council virtual event on Thursday 27 April 2023 to explore finding and keeping work.
  • We’re continuing our work to understand and support wellbeing and working at the end of life, in partnership with Marie Curie.
  • We’re continuing to accelerate wellbeing data analysis, making it as easy as possible to use wellbeing data from national datasets for appraisal, analysis and evaluation.
  • We will be publishing findings from our work to understand loneliness at different ages and for young people.

Building on our review refresh, we’re updating the loneliness evidence base from our 2018 review.

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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Feb 2, 2023 | By Stewart Martin
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Dec 22, 2022 | By Robyn Bignall-Donnelly
2022 Impact – Our year in review
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