Back in November last year David Cameron announced that the Office for National Statistics would identify well-being measures, that would ultimately influence policy making. So there will soon be some National Accounts of Well-Being. The idea being that the state of the country should not just be based on the the economic situation, but also on the way that people feel about their quality of life, not just their standard of life.
Cynical people who care about politics could obviously say that this is an attempt from the Conservatives to side-track people away from the economic situation, by now making them concentrate on whether they’re happy or not. Almost as if the underlying message is, ‘it doesn’t matter if we’re poor, as long as we’re happy.’
But if this is the case, or if it isn’t, it doesn’t really matter to me. My personal opinion is that it is massively important, and for whatever reason it is looked at, it can only be a good thing. I have witnessed the nineties where our economy has been in jackpot time, and I’ve also seen how miserable people are at the same time. This dichotomy has led to the birth of whole new industry of well-being experts telling us how to be happier. It could be fitness, spirituality, career, philosophy, diet, weather, companionship or a myriad of other factors that are always to blame for our misery, but the fact is that we are definitely not happy because of money.
The country has been in the best shape that it has ever been, obviously until recently, and it has made no difference to people’s well-being. So what is the answer to feeling better?
In the same time that the economy has improved, other social situations have become worse, making people fear for their safety, fear for their future, and fear for their career. Could it be as simple as when you remove the fear of survival, the human mind has to create substitute crisis instead, so we make up problems that before we would not have been aware of. When you’re constantly thinking hand to mouth only, you don’t have enough time to be anxious about what’s not happened. Are we now the victims of our own success?
Whatever the reason, and I’m sure that it’s not as simple as I suggest by the way, some kind of attempt to measure it at such a large scale must be a good thing. It will obviously be subjective, and collecting figures will have it’s challenges, but I hope that it’s maintained outside of any political agenda because the value of such data is held in the length of time that it is collected.