It’s been five years since the What Works Centre for Wellbeing became part of the What Works Network. Working with our partners and funders across the UK in the academic, charity, public, and private sectors, we’ve created approaches to understand, measure and improve wellbeing in a range of contexts.

Last week, wellbeing in the UK dipped for the first time since records began at the Office for National Statistics in 2011. The foundation the Centre has helped to lay, for tackling aspects of low wellbeing, are now more important than ever. And not just for average wellbeing, which has increased over time for most age groups. But also for the wellbeing ‘worst off’ – the 2.3 million people who rate their life satisfaction as ‘low’ or ‘very low’; the half a million who rate all four of the ONS wellbeing questions as ‘very low’; and the more than 10 million people who record high anxiety.

Today, we are marking half a decade, and providing new research and guidance, with:

  • A wayfinder report for policy officialsWellbeing Evidence at the Heart of Policy updates the landmark Commission on Wellbeing and Policy with evidence-informed WISER priority policy areas. It outlines policy and practice changes across the UK; and what that means for government, business and civil society in post-Brexit Britain.  

The report sets out:

    • what wellbeing impacts look like in different contexts
    • what works to improve wellbeing
    • how to use a wellbeing lens to create more relevant, effective policy. 

Additionally, Lord Gus O’Donnell – who writes the report foreword – speaks at our five year anniversary event today about the government using a wellbeing lens to level up our experiences of life across the various regions of the UK; to improve outcomes on life chances, liveability, connections, culture and power. 

At the event we will also be sharing the progress and findings from five years of the Centre, and introducing four new academic teams. 

  •  Three new ESRC-funded data analysis project collaborations that will fill evidence gaps to help identify what works, for whom, how, and why.
    • Dr Daisy Fancourt, Associate Professor of Behavioural Science and Health at UCL, leads a team analyses the wellbeing impact of various activities that result from social prescribing
    • Dr Praveetha Patalay, Associate Professor at the Institute of Education and Faculty of Population Health Sciences at UCL, will bring together the data on social isolation and subjective wellbeing across the life course. Her team will do this using five British birth cohort studies. You can read Dr Pataly’s earlier guest blog on children’s mental health and wellbeing.              
    • Dr Emily Long, MRC Skills Development Fellow, Institute of Health & Wellbeing Social Sciences, at Glasgow University, explores the impact of loneliness on the wellbeing of teens and young adults. This age-related gap was also identified in our conceptual review of loneliness, carried out in partnership with Dr Louise Mansfield and her team at the Brunel University London.

These projects will run alongside the Centre’s work, already underway, looking at the wellbeing impacts on different groups within society, in collaboration with Diane Coyle and her team at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy.