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

Government and public policy

About Government and public policy

Our evidence reviews, analysis, and guidance focus on:

Good governance for wellbeing looks likely to be governments and organisations that are competent, fair and caring. Our relationship with our government affects, and is affected by, our wellbeing. When people are satisfied with the way they are governed, wellbeing is higher and more equal. Using the World Bank indicators, analysis shows that what ranks highest in importance for people are ‘effectiveness of government services and efficiency of government and policy delivery’. How we do government matters too.

This is particularly important at lower GDP levels, but still holds true in richer countries. The European Social Survey suggests that once a country reaches a good level of GDP, other governance factors become important, particularly ‘voice and accountability’, ‘political stability’ and ‘absence of violence and terrorism’. The latter highlights the importance of feeling safe.

There is also evidence suggesting that people who participate in their communities are also active in political life.

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There are a wide range of UK legislative duties and roles related to wellbeing. Collectively this legislation places duties on the public sector and its services to consider and provide for the wellbeing of citizens, be that in certain geographical areas or sections of those societies, for example carers with The Care Act. It presents opportunities across the board, for policy makers, purchasers and providers of services at all levels.

UK wide


These led to the statutory introduction of Health and Wellbeing Boards in local authorities across England in 2013.



Northern Ireland

Carnegie has led work towards a Wellbeing Framework which is hoped will inform public service design and embed wellbeing in policy from 2016.

Let us know of any others.

What can we do?

After five years of building the evidence base, the What Works Centre for Wellbeing is now able to build on the 2014 Commission for Wellbeing and Policy’s 12 priority areas. Below are the implications for creating evidence-informed wellbeing policy.

The WISER wellbeing priority areas

  • Aim for stable employment and low unemployment. 
  • Good Work: Create jobs with purpose; challenge; decent income and good social connections; clear expectations; reasonable freedom, control and agency; consultation, support, recognition and opportunity; reasonable work-life balance to allow time with friends, family and for leisure.
  • Promote balanced, stable economic growth
  • Look at effects of expenditure, debt and insecurity 
  • Invest in health and welfare systems to protect us, give us choice and free time for leisure, arts and education.
Society and governance
  • Treat citizens with respect and encourage citizen-led action and participation to happen in a meaningful way.
  • Devolve power and control; carry out more meaningful consultation; increase trust in our collective institutions; reduce corruption; acknowledge our dignity, agency and control; reduce the hassle of bureaucracy; better feedback loops for services; faster less contracted legal process especially for children and families.
  • Measure wellbeing as a policy goal.
  • Use approaches like behavioural insights and design thinking to base understanding and action on how people actually behave rather than how we think they should 
  • Give citizens the wellbeing data they need.
Emotional-mental health
  • Treat mental ill-health as professionally as physical ill-health
  • Support parents in their parenting, their relationships and mother’s mental health.
  • Build social and emotional skills in schools; life and work skills such as: character, resilience, empathy, self-control, perseverance, gratitude & savouring, cope with shocks.
Relationships and communities
  • Promote volunteering and giving.
  • Develop opportunities for building social connections, which will also help to address loneliness. 
  • Create a built environment that is sociable and green that allows for shorter, better commutes, and connection to the natural world, with reduced environmental stressors like noise and air pollution. Create opportunities for us to know neighbors, but give us a choice about the amount of contact.
three people queuing to vote

External resource

  • World Happiness Report – happiness and voting behaviour
  • ONS governance and trust wellbeing data