September 2023

Life satisfaction: what works?

Reviewing the literature to support evidence-informed action and improved wellbeing

Life satisfaction: what works?

We have embarked on an exciting new research programme to identify high-quality evidence on life satisfaction, and inform experimental research and policy-relevant outcomes.

Between September 2023 and June 2024, we will:  

  1. Conduct a systematic review of the life satisfaction literature to understand what works to improve wellbeing and which policy factors of interests are associated with life satisfaction. 
  2. Produce a trials strategy for using life satisfaction in experimental research, informed by our review findings and the Centre’s ongoing work and thinking on how to generate 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 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.

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In this project

Discussion paper - June 2017
Measuring Wellbeing and cost-effectiveness analysis
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