Well-being is a key issue for government and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is leading a programme of work to develop new measures of national well-being.
Estimates for personal wellbeing are based on data from the Annual Population Survey, which includes responses from around 165,000 people. This is a large representative sample of adults aged 16 and over living in residential households in the UK.
Wellbeing is important because people with higher well-being have lower rates of illness, recover more quickly and for longer, and generally have better physical and mental health.
Key inequalities and risk factors
Personal well-being estimates differ by people’s personal characteristics including sex, age, gender, ethnicity, working status and employment type:
- Low satisfaction was higher than the England average in inactive or unemployed people; people from all Black ethnic groups; people with fair, poor or very poor health, and; people aged 45-59.
- Feelings of low worth were higher in men; inactive or unemployed people; people from all Black ethnic groups; people with fair, poor or very poor health, and; people aged 45-59 and aged 80+
- Feelings of unhappiness were higher in women; inactive or unemployed people; people with fair, poor or very poor health, and; people aged 45-59
- Feelings of anxiety were higher in women; inactive or unemployed people; people with fair, poor or very poor health, and; people aged 40-59. Anxiety was higher than the England average for people working part-time, but not significantly so.
Facts, figures and trends
Personal wellbeing measures are taken from the Annual Population Survey and provide estimates at a national, regional and local authority level. 900 people responded to the wellbeing questions in Bracknell Forest.
The latest personal wellbeing estimates suggest year-on-year improvements in reported wellbeing since 2011/12, when ONS started to collect the data. Over this period there have been small but significant improvements in average personal wellbeing ratings in each UK country and across all four measures of wellbeing.
ONS are currently measuring individual/subjective well-being based on four questions included on the Integrated Household Survey:
- 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?
Responses are given on a scale of 0-10:
- 0 is “not at all satisfied/happy/anxious/worthwhile
- 10 is “completely satisfied/happy/anxious/worthwhile
And graded as:
- Low – 0-4 out of 10
- Medium – 5-6 out of 10
- High – 7-8 out of 10
- Very high – 9-10 out of 10
The proportion of people reporting the highest levels of personal wellbeing has increased and the greatest improvement has been for levels of anxiety. The proportion of people reporting the lowest levels of wellbeing has reduced, but not at the same rate.
The overall improvement in wellbeing scores therefore appears to have resulted more from the growing number of people reporting the highest levels of personal wellbeing, rather than a reduction in people reporting low levels of personal wellbeing.
This is important as it has implications for how equal the distribution of personal wellbeing in society is, and suggests growing inequality.
In 2014/15, the average ratings for each of the four measures of personal wellbeing were:
- 7.6 out of 10 for life satisfaction
- 7.8 out of 10 for feeling that what one does in life is worthwhile
- 7.5 out of 10 for happiness yesterday
- 2.9 out of 10 for anxiety yesterday
These all improved from 2013/14 to 2014/15.
The Public Health Outcomes Framework includes indicators for wellbeing which measure percentage lowest scores (0-4 out of 10) for satisfaction, feeling worthwhile and happiness and highest scores (6-10) for anxiety.
The survey asked "Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?" (0 is 'not at all satisfied'; 10 is 'completely satisfied').
In 2014/15, the average life satisfaction score in Bracknell Forest was 7.57 out of 10. This is comparable to the England figure of 7.60 out of 10.
4.3% of people reported that they had low satisfaction levels in Bracknell Forest. This is similar to the national level of 4.8% and comparable to the previous year:
It was not possible to report accurate data on the years 2011/12 and 2012/13 because the confidence levels for these time periods were too wide for the data to be meaningful.
The survey asked "Overall, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile? (0 is 'not at all worthwhile'; 10 is 'completely worthwhile').
In 2014/15, the average worthwhile score in Bracknell Forest was 7.72 out of 10. This is comparable to the England figure of 7.81 out of 10.
3.5% of people reported that they had a feeling of low worth in Bracknell Forest. This is similar to the national level of 3.8% and comparable to the previous figures:
Data was not available in 2012/13 for Bracknell Forest, as the confidence levels for this time period were too high to publish.
The survey asked "Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday? (0 is 'not at all happy; 10 is 'completely happy').
In 2014/15, the average happiness score in Bracknell Forest was 7.33 out of 10. This is comparable to the England figure of 7.45 out of 10.
8.2% of people reported that they had a feeling of low happiness in Bracknell Forest (0-4 out of 10), which is a significantly lower than the previous year. The national figure of 9.0% is comparable with Bracknell Forest.
The survey asked "Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday? (0 is 'not at all anxious'; 10 is 'completely anxious').
In 2014/15, the average anxiety score in Bracknell Forest was 3.06 out of 10. This is comparable to the England figure of 2.86 out of 10.
21.4% of people reported that they had a feeling of high anxiety in Bracknell Forest (6-10 out of 10). This is comparable to previous years and also comparable to the national figure of 19.4%.
Recent factors influencing wellbeing
One reason for the overall improvement in personal wellbeing may be the economic outlook.
ONS economic data shows that unemployment has been on a downwards trend since the beginning of 2013 and fell to 5.5% in the 3 months to March 2015. Research has shown that unemployment has a negative effect on personal wellbeing, therefore this finding is to be expected. Additionally, research into personal wellbeing has found that “periods of rapid change...are often associated with drops in happiness” (Graham et al., 2015).
It could be that the rapid changes that occurred with the economic downturn in 2008-09 were being felt more strongly in financial year ending 2012, and the greater stability in financial year ending 2015 could be one of the reasons for an improvement in personal wellbeing over this period.
Want to know more?
Measuring National Well-being: Personal Well-being in the UK, 2014 to 2015 (ONS, 2015) - Personal Well-being findings from the Annual Population Survey, with analysis by country, region and local areas and individual characteristics.
This page was created on 25 February 2014 and updated on 10 June 2016. Next review date February 2017.
Cite this page:
Bracknell Forest Council. (2016). JSNA – General Wellbeing. Available at: jsna.bracknell-forest.gov.uk/living-working-well/healthy-lifestyles/general-wellbeing (Accessed: dd Mmmm yyyy)
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