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You may also wish to Read the blog article on this document.
March 2021

What matters for our sense of purpose?

What matters for our sense of purpose?
In partnership with

What is purpose?

Wellbeing is defined by the Office for National Statistics as how we are doing, as individuals, communities and as a nation, and how sustainable that is for the future.

Personal wellbeing is a particularly important dimension of overall wellbeing. It captures individual level factors, which can be measured through a series of subjective questions that ask how we feel about ourselves and our lives.

  • “ Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?”
  • “ Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?”
  • “ Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?”
  • “ Overall, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?”

Diagram showing different aspects of wellbeing

Instead of focussing on how satisfied we are with our life — as the majority of research does — this analysis looks at how worthwhile people felt the things they do in life are.

Measuring life satisfaction gives a common catch-all indicator for self-reported wellbeing. Asking about sense of purpose — or sense of worthwhile — is an important eudaimonic aspect of wellbeing, that is independent from feelings and emotions of pleasure or pain.

This matters because wellbeing goes beyond the pleasant emotions and absence of ill-health; we want to perceive our lives as having value, with a sense of meaning and fulfilment.

Close What is purpose?


How are we doing in the UK?

What matters for our sense of purpose?

Focus: working lives

The role of gardens

Method: Review of existing studies and new data analysis


You may also wish to read the blog article on this document.

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