Please note that What Works Wellbeing will close operations on 30 April 2024.  Read more
September 2023

Life satisfaction: what works?

Reviewing the literature to support evidence-informed action that improves wellbeing

Life satisfaction: what works?
In partnership with

We embarked on an exciting new research programme to identify high-quality evidence on life satisfaction that can inform experimental research and policy development.

Between September 2023 and April 2024, we conducted two rapid evidence assessment of life satisfaction literature to:

  1. collate international research into effective interventions used to improve an individual’s life satisfaction;
  2. update the evidence base of broad drivers of life satisfaction at a population-level using UK longitudinal data.

We also produced a trials strategy to ensure future experimental research into life satisfaction is more aligned with public policy priorities, informed by our review findings and the Centre’s ongoing work and thinking on how to generate and use experimental wellbeing evidence. 

We will use evidence from this foundational research programme to highlight effective approaches and interventions for policy-makers and research funders, and accelerate experimental wellbeing research. 

In this video, Richard Crellin, summarises and takes us through learnings and findings from the project.


In the UK’s Treasury’s Green Book 2020 and the 2021 supplementary guidance, wellbeing is integral to the definition of our national welfare, and life satisfaction is a clear cross-departmental priority outcome. 

Using life satisfaction as a common metric to compare the policy impacts on the lives of citizens across the country, across departments and policy areas, can enable more effective use of public funds and the generation of social and public value.

Experimental evidence on what works to improve life satisfaction is needed to be able to capture the broad effects on UK policies and programmes.

This new research will inform the development of future experimental evaluation, and shape policy objectives to help prioritise policies and projects based on their wellbeing impacts, cost effectiveness and trade-offs. 

The programme builds on our previous reviews of evidence that uses established wellbeing metrics ONS4 and WEMWBS. It is also part of our mission to accelerate the generation of and access to wellbeing data.

What is ‘Life satisfaction’?

Life satisfaction is one of four metrics used by the Office for National Statistics to measure personal (subjective) wellbeing. It is captured using a 0-10 scale response to the question “Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?”. The harmonised set is used across many surveys, including the Annual Population Survey.


Sign up to our weekly e-mail list

Sign up to receive resources, insights and evidence as they are published.

In this project

Blog April 2024
New findings on what works to improve life satisfaction
Read more
Trials strategy April 2024
Life satisfaction trials strategy
Read more
Briefing April 2024
Life satisfaction - what works?
Read more
Full report April 2024
What works to improve life satisfaction in intervention and observational research?
Read more
Discussion paper - June 2017
Measuring Wellbeing and cost-effectiveness analysis
Read more