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
April 2024

Life satisfaction - what works?

Life satisfaction – what works?
In partnership with

The quick read

We conducted two rapid reviews:

  1. Life Satisfaction Intervention Review: Collating international evidence on activities, programmes or services intended to improve individual life satisfaction.
  2. Life Satisfaction Determinants Review: Updating the evidence base using UK longitudinal data on broad factors that are associated with life satisfaction at a population-level.

Together, they provide a broad overview of the current evidence base on life satisfaction by offering a macro and micro view of what works to improve life satisfaction.

This briefing summarises the key insights from both and presents implications for research alongside recommendations for effective policy and practice.

Overall, we found:

  • Strong evidence that emotional skill development, psychological therapies, exercise, and some emotion-based interventions work to improve life satisfaction.
  • Strong evidence that education, employment, income, physical health, arts and culture have a well established association with life satisfaction.
  • Evidence gaps in the interventions literature, including work-related interventions and interventions for specific population groups.
  • Mixed or weaker evidence about the impact of community belonging and cohesion, environment, and travel on life satisfaction.

A priority next step is to connect these evidence bases together to expand intervention research into new areas, supported by the existing determinants research. We suggest prioritising the evaluation or trialling of interventions:

  • in the workplace;
  • being delivered to vulnerable groups;
  • where there is currently insufficient evidence like music or social media interventions;
  • that are linked to important determinants of life satisfaction like employment, education or close social relationships.

The reviews were conducted by Kohlrabi and were funded by the Cabinet Office Evaluation Task Force, the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport, and the Department for Transport.

This project is part of our efforts to systematically identify and summarise the evidence that uses global wellbeing measures to understand what works to improve wellbeing.

Previously, we have explored the UK wellbeing evaluation literature that uses the ONS4 and Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS) measures. Insights from the 2024 life satisfaction review are intended to be used alongside these.

Close The quick read


The findings

The research

Research implications

Recommendations for action

Suggested citation

[gravityform id=1 title=true description=true ajax=true tabindex=49]