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Measuring National Well-being: Children's Well-being, 2014

Released: 06 March 2014 Download PDF


This article proposes a draft set of measures of national well-being for children aged 0 to 15. The measures are the latest output from the ONS Measuring National Well-being (MNW) programme and are released alongside a draft set of measures of national well-being for young people aged 16 to 24. The aim of these measures is to provide information on key sub-groups of the population to supplement the existing 41 experimental measures of national well-being which are published by the MNW Programme twice a year.

This publication outlines a first draft set of 24 headline measures of children’s well-being and reasons for their selection for seven of the ten domains used in the national set. These domains are Personal Well-being, Our Relationships, Health, What We Do, Where We Live, Personal Finance and Education & Skills. The remaining three domains (Governance, Natural Environment and Economy) are more relevant to all age groups and have not been included here.

The full list of proposed headline measures can be found in the data section (213.5 Kb Excel sheet) of this article. Other potential measures have been included which reflect possible additional or alternatives to the proposed headline measures.

Findings from the MNW Children and Young People’s project have been used to inform this work1.  Where new measures have been proposed, the criteria to determine the original set of broader measures has been used. As outlined in the criteria, UK data has been used where available, in cases where there is not a measure for the UK, England or England and Wales has been used2.

ONS would appreciate any feedback on these measures by 17 April 2014. ONS will continue to develop the measures for children and young people taking account of ongoing feedback from users and experts. An update of the measures will be published taking into account data availability and further work needed to fill gaps in measurement. ONS will also undertake more in-depth analysis of the measures to provide further insight into what the data and measures tell us about children and young people's well-being in the UK.

Why measure Children’s Well-being?

Children’s well-being is an important aspect of the well-being of the nation. In 2012 there were 12 million children, representing nearly a fifth of the total UK population3. Research from the Children’s Society has shown that a significant minority of children in the UK suffer from low well-being and this impacts on their childhood and life chances as well as for the families and communities around them (Children’s Society, 2013).

Notes for Introduction

  1. ONS, 2013 Review of available sources and measures for children and young people’s well-being (712.7 Kb Pdf) ; ONS, 2012 Measuring National Well-being - Children's Well-being, 2012.

  2. Where England and / or England and Wales data has been used as a proxy for the UK, information on similar sources for the rest of the UK has been included in the data section of this report.

  3. ONS UK population estimates.


Personal Well–being

Proposed headline measures

Measure Geographic coverage Age group Source Latest year Latest data 
Proportion of children with medium / high level of life satisfaction GB 10-15 Children’s Society February/March 2013 77%
Proportion of children with medium / high level of happiness yesterday GB 10-15 Children’s Society February/March 2013 74%
Proportion of children with medium / high level of worthwhileness GB 10-15 Children’s Society February/March 2013 75%

Download table

Personal well-being of children refers to subjective measures of what children feel and think about different aspects of their lives, and is clearly associated with objective measures such as health, education and housing (Bradshaw et al, 2013). It has been suggested that positive personal well-being is associated with a range of positive social, economic and health outcomes in the present as well as in the future (Lyubomirsky et al, 2005).

Personal well-being measures

The Children’s Society has investigated children’s personal well-being since 2005 through various surveys, individual or group discussions and statistical testing (Children’s Society, 2013).  The proposed measures use The Children’s Society survey data1. The three questions used are:

  • Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?

  • Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?

  • Overall, to what extent do you think the things you do in your life are worthwhile?

These questions have been developed by the Office for National Statistics in its work with adults (ONS, 2011). Children are asked to give their answers on a scale of 0 to 10 where 0 is 'not at all' and 10 is 'completely'. The questions allow children to make an assessment of their life overall, as well as providing an indication of their day-to-day emotions2.

Notes for Personal Well–being

  1. Aspects of children’s personal well-being have been incorporated in some other surveys in the UK and internationally, but much less than for adults. The Health Behaviour of School-aged Children (HBSC) for example (a cross-national survey of children aged 11-13 and 15-years old, conducted every four years since 1983) includes a question on life satisfaction. The British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) (part of the Understanding Society survey since 2009) has asked children aged 11-15 how they feel about their life as a whole, about their appearance, family, friends, school, school work and self-esteem every year since 1994.
  2. These reflect three approaches to measuring personal well-being. The ‘evaluative’ approach is used when children are asked to make a cognitive assessment of how their life is going overall or of how specific aspects of their life are going, such as family or school. The “eudemonic” approach, sometimes referred as the psychological approach, measures children’s degree of self-acceptance, their sense of meaning and purpose in life, the degree of autonomy and personal growth in their lives, positive connections with family and friends, as well as their sense of control and management of everyday life (Ryff’s model, 1989). The ‘experience’ approach which measures children’s positive and negative experiences (or affect) over a short timeframe to capture their personal well-being on a day-to-day basis. Only questions about positive affect have been used so far as testing found that children were less comfortable with answering questions about negative affect (such as feeling anxious). Further information is available in The Good Childhood report 2013

Our Relationships

Proposed headline measures

Measure Geographic coverage Age group Source Latest year  Latest data
Proportion of children who quarrel with a parent more than once a week (mother/father) UK 10-15 Understanding Society 2011–12 28% (mother)
20% (father)
Proportion of children who talk to a parent about things that matter more than once a week (mother/father) UK 10-15 Understanding Society 2011–12 63% (mother)
40% (father) 
Proportion of children who eat a meal with family 3 or more times in the last week UK 10-15 Understanding Society 2011–12 75%
Proportion of children who have been bullied at school either physically or in other ways or both, 4 or more times in the last 6 months UK 10-15 Understanding Society 2011–12 12%

Download table

Our relationships looks at the quality of personal relationships children have with those in their lives. The quality of these social connections is important to their well-being as it can affect their experiences, emotions and health (Helliwell and Putnam, 2004).

Relationship with parents

The quality of family relationships has been shown to be an important contributor to children’s personal well-being (Rees et al, 2010).  Proposed headline measures aim to capture whether children’s communication with their parents is harmonious and meaningful.  Whereas earlier research focused more on the quality of the children’s relationships with their mother, latest research has highlighted the importance of children’s relationships with their father leading to the government to acknowledge the need for fathers to be recognised in children’s policies (Tim Loughton speech to Fatherhood Commission, 2010). Therefore both mother and father have been included for the quarrelling and talking with parents measures.

Family meal times

Eating regular meals with family is also thought to be an important factor accounting for happiness of children with family life (Ermish et al, 2011) and can strengthen children’s family bonds, sense of belonging and cultural identity (Wolin and Bennett, 1984). The benefits of eating meals together as a family are also associated with better eating habits, nutritional intake and decreased risk of obesity (Gillman et al, 2000).

Being Bullied

Peer victimisation has been associated with a large number of short-term and long-term adverse outcomes in children, including lower levels of personal well-being (Wolke and Skew, 2011; Rees et al, 2010) and increased risk of behavioural, physical and mental health problems in childhood as well as in adulthood (Kim and Leventhal, 2008; Wolke and Skew, 2011; Wolke et al, 2013).  Bullying can include a range of acts, from psychological and physical abuse to theft and social exclusion, either mild or severe, and can occur at school or at home. The proposed headline measures focuses on the percentage of children frequently bullied at school.

Over the past 10 years, the issue of cyber bullying (where children are bullied through the Internet or other technologies such as smartphones) has been brought to public attention due to the reporting of high profile cases in the media.  Cyber bullying has been described as particularly harmful for the well-being of children, as it is a type of bullying that can follow the child everywhere and at anytime. There is currently no survey data available for cyber bullying of children but this will be kept under review. However, a measure has been included on social networking usage in the What We Do domain.

Other potential measures

Other proposed measures which could help provide further context for this domain are how happy children are with their family life,  how happy children are with their friends and how supported they feel by their family (available from Understanding Society). Relationships with friends is important for children’s personal well-being, self-esteem and sense of own identity (Chanfreau et al, 2008; Currie et al, 2012).



Proposed headline measures

Measure Geographic coverage Age group  Source Latest year  Latest data
Proportion of term babies with low birthweight  England and Wales Gestational age between 37 and 42 weeks ONS 2011 3%
Conception rates for girls aged 13–15 England and Wales 13-15 ONS 2012 5.6 per 1000 girls
Proportion of children who are overweight including obese England 2-15 HSE 2012 28%
Proportion of children who have a relatively high level of happiness with their appearance UK 10-15 Understanding Society 2011–12 74%

Download table

Health is very important for children. The independent report “Fair Society, Healthy Lives” (Marmot review, 2010) states that policy objectives to reduce health inequalities in the UK are required to “give every child the best start in life” and to ensure “healthy standard of living for all”. A healthy experience through a child’s life cycle from before birth to the teenage years is therefore of paramount importance for the future prospect of the child as an adult1,2

The headline measures proposed are related to different aspects of health and the life cycle: low birth weight, conception rates, obesity and subjective measures of happiness with appearance.

Low birth weight

Low birth weight is closely associated with disability and mortality in infants and children, with additional long-term health consequences in adulthood. Low birth weight is directly linked to the health and health behaviours of the mother before and during pregnancy (Bakeo and Clarke, 2006; Bradshaw, 2011; Chomitz et al, 1995). However, the relationship between birth weight and mortality is complex and varies within different ethnic groups (Kerry et al, 2009). 

The measure for low birth weight of term babies refers to babies born after 36 weeks gestation with a weight of less than 2, 500 g. This measure is in line with the English Public Health Outcomes Framework.

Under 16 conception rates

Early child-bearing can lead to a wide range of health problems for under-16 mothers and their children (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2006). The Teenage Pregnancy Strategy was set out by the Department of Health in 1999, and renewed in 20103. The aim of the Strategy is to halve the rate of teenage pregnancy that existed in 1998.


Obesity in children has become an important public health issue in the turn of the 21st century. Research has suggested that being overweight or obese in childhood is linked to immediate and long-term physical and mental health risks. Mental health risks can arise from body dissatisfaction, social discrimination, low self-esteem and low quality of life (Griffiths et al, 2010; Xavier and Mandal, 2005).  Obese children rate their personal well-being low, because of problems such as bullying at school, fatigue and difficulties in doing physical activities (Schwimmer et al, 2003).

Happiness with appearance

Children’s satisfaction with their appearance has been highlighted as a key aspect of their overall well-being (Children’s Society, 2013). Lower levels of satisfaction with appearance could potentially be linked to the high importance of image in the current culture (Dohnt  and Tiggemann,2006).  It has been suggested that exaggerated preoccupation or feelings of unhappiness about personal appearance (or dysmorphia) could cause mental health problems, such as depression, social isolation or intense self-consciousness leading to distress.

Other potential measures

Other proposed measures which could help provide further context for the Health domain include physical / mental health and subjective measures of health.

Healthy life expectancy:

Healthy life expectancy is a whole population measure which is included in the national well-being measures. These figures are widely used at a local, national and international level to monitor health inequalities and target resources effectively. Healthy life expectancy4 is defined as the number of years an individual can expect to spend in very good or good general health.

Perinatal Health:

The measure for low birth weight was chosen to be consistent with the English Public Health Outcome Framework. But there are several other important measures of perinatal health. These include the proportion of babies born weighing less than 2,500g irrespective of gestational age5 and the proportion of babies who are small for gestational age (SGA)6. The prevalence of pre-term births, rates of stillbirth (babies born without any signs of life on or after 24 weeks of gestation), prevalence of major congenital anomalies, neonatal death rates and the infant mortality rates have also been highlighted as important (European Perinatal Health Report, 2010).

Physical Health:

Important aspects of physical health for children include a measure for the percentage of children with long-standing health conditions as reported by parents (using Understanding Society data) and measures of the prevalence of asthma and type-I diabetes.

Health-related behaviours:

Some health behaviours (such as eating at least five portions of fruits and vegetables a day) are positive health behaviours, with positive outcomes.  On the other hand, smoking, drinking and drug use7 are negative health behaviours, with negative health outcomes and very well documented health consequences8. These are important contextual measures but have not been selected as headline measures.

Self-reported health:

The national well-being measures include a self-reported health measure. Various surveys including questions on self-assessed health for children9, where children aged 10-15 are asked whether they would say that their health is excellent, very good, good, fair or poor.

Mental health:

ONS is undertaking further work to explore the available measures of mental health in children. One option is the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) (Goodman et al., 2000) to assess the percentage of children with mental health disorders. The SDQ consists of five sets of five questions, relating to emotional symptoms, conduct problems, hyperactivity/inattention, peer relationships problems and pro-social behaviours10. The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children survey, on the other hand, uses a measure called the KDSCREEN-10 Mental Health Index, consisting of a set of 10 questions exploring different aspects such as the child experience of depressive moods or stressful feelings, the quality of their relationships with family and friends or their self-perception of their cognitive abilities.

Notes for Health

  1. The current Public Health Outcomes Framework 2013 to 2016 in England and the Welsh Public Health Framework Our Healthy Future aim to improve health of children and young people through healthier lifestyles and reduction of health inequalities.  In Scotland, an Action Framework for Children and Young People’s Health  was set up in 2007 as a structured programme of actions to foster and safeguard the health and well-being of children and young people.

  2. In February 2014, the Department of Health (DH) has published a series of factsheets on why wellbeing is important to health at different life stages.

  3. Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, Department of Health.

  4. Healthy life expectancy at birth is also used as a measure of well-being for adults:

  5. This measure is used by WHO and OECD.

  6. Refers to babies whose birth weight lies below the tenth percentile for their gestational age.

  7. Data are available from Health Survey for England.

  8. A summary of the health harms of drugs, Department of Health, 2011

  9. Understanding Society: The Children’s Society survey; The British Household Panel survey; The Health Behaviour of School-aged children.

  10. A self-reported SDQ was included in the Understanding Society Survey. However, the SDQ is not directly comparable to the GHQ-12 measure used for adults in the ONS framework.

What we do

Proposed headline measures

Measure Geographic coverage  Age group  Source Latest year Latest data
Proportion of children who have participated in any sport in the last  week England 11-15 DCMS 2012–13 89%
Proportion of children who have engaged with, or participated in, arts or cultural activity at least 3 times in the last year England 5-15 DCMS 2012–13 94%
Proportion of children who belong to social networking sites (such as Facebook, Bebo and MySpace) UK  10-15 Understanding Society  2011–12 86%

Download table

What We Do refers to how a person spends their time in work and non work activities such as leisure time and the balance between them. In the case of a child’s well-being only the latter will be explored.

Leisure time

Leisure time is spent doing non-compulsory activities such as engaging in physical activity, culture and arts, according to preferences and lifestyles and can form part of a child’s identity. Physical activity1 can be an organised activity such as playing football with a club or riding a bike. Participation in arts and culture2 can be reading and writing at home, or visiting a theatre / museum. Both physical activity and participation in arts and culture has been attributed to improving a child’s short and long term well-being, for example health and mental health benefits(Children’s Society, 2013; Department of Health, 2007).

Social media

Using social media sites such as Bebo, Facebook or MySpace is growing. While it can have positive advantages of helping children connect with friends and family, make communication easier for shy children and improve technical computer skills, it has also been associated with aspects of lower well-being in children such as depression and social isolation. In addition, social media creates opportunities for cyber bullying, sexting and exposure to risky situations (Holder et al 2009; O'Keeffe GS 2011; ONS, 2012,). 

Other potential measures

Other potential measures which can help provide further context for the ‘What we do’ domain include technology and social media usage, volunteering activities, subjective measures and caring.

Technology and social networking usage:

While playing on computers, games consoles and chatting on social media sites can enhance children’s recreational and networking experiences there are risks with excessive usage, lack of physical activity, exposure to negative influences and experiences. Research has highlighted a connection between well-being and the length of time children use technology and social networking - well-being decreased as time spent on computer games, games consoles and internet etc increased (Skew et al, 2011).


Volunteering is time spent doing an unpaid activity that benefits another person (or group) or society. Volunteering can give people an increased sense of well-being, for example, by meeting new people and gaining new skills.

Subjective measures:

A subjective measure of children’s views about what they do could be included. Potential areas could be satisfaction with how they use their time and / or satisfaction with the amount of choice they have in their life (Children’s Society).

Young carers:

The population of England and Wales is ageing, and in response the provision of unpaid care by family members, friends, and neighbours has increased. While those who provide unpaid care make a valuable contribution to society, for young carers  it can have a negative effect on future careers employment, social and leisure activities (ONS 2013a).

Criminal behaviour:

Engaging in criminal behaviour is an example of children participating in risky behaviour which is detriment to their well-being. Recorded data of criminal behaviour aspects such as rate of offending for those aged 10-15, types of offences and changes in reoffending rates could be examined.

Notes for What we do

  1. Participants from the Taking Part Survey were asked  if they had engaged in a sport activity, an example of some of the eligible sports activities included was: riding a bike, football; snooker; swimming; skating, athletics and walking. See the full Taking Part report for a full list of sports activities. Interviews for children aged 5-10 are conducted with the adult respondent by proxy and, due to this, the 5-10 survey is limited to asking about activities undertaken out of school. For 11-15 year olds, the questions are asked directly to the child and cover both in and out of school activities.
  2. Excludes reading and writing.

Where We Live

Proposed headline measures

Measure Geographic coverage Age group Source Latest year  Latest data
Proportion of children who have been victims of a crime at least once in the last year England & Wales 10-15 ONS 2012–13 13%
Proportion of children who have a bit or big worry about being a victim of crime  UK 10-15 Understanding Society 2011–12 16%
Proportion of children who feel a bit or  very unsafe walking alone in neighbourhood after dark UK 10-15 Understanding Society 2011–12 44%
Proportion of children who like living in their neighbourhood UK 10-15 Understanding Society 2011–12 88%

Download table

Where we live is about an individual’s dwelling, their local environment and the type of community in which they live, all of which can have an impact on a child’s well-being.


In order to explore a child’s perception of their neighbourhood it is important to understand a child’s experience of crime.  The Crime Survey in England and Wales (ONS 2013b) produces a victimisation rate for children (10-15 years) based on their experiences of crime in the 12 months prior to interview. It is important to note that victimisation rates do not simply translate into the number of incidents, as some children may have experienced more than one crime over the 12 months.  Being a victim of crime can be a traumatic experience for the victim and their family and friends. This can present itself emotionally or through behaviour changes (such as taking precautions to avoid becoming a victim again).


It is important to note that the likelihood of being a victim of crime and the fear of crime are not always related. Nevertheless, studies have shown that parents will restrict outside play if they have concerns over crime and safety (Kalish et al, 2010).

Children who live in an area they consider safe will be confident to go outside and play. If they consider the neighbourhood to be friendly they will also be able to go and make friends with other children in the neighbourhood, all of which can contribute to a child’s levels of happiness with life in general.

Other potential measures

Another potential measure which can help provide further context for the ‘Where we live’ domain includes whether children live in overcrowded or under-occupied houses1.

Notes for Where We Live

  1. Levels of overcrowding and under-occupation are measured using the Department of Communities and Local Government’s English Household Survey ‘bedroom standard’ (occupation density).This is the number of bedrooms required by the household to avoid undesirable sharing (given the number, ages and relationships of the household members). This is then compared with the number of bedrooms actually available to the household.

Personal Finance

Proposed headline measures

Measure Geographic coverage Age group Source Latest year  Latest data
Proportion of children living in households with less than 60% of median income UK 0-19 DWP 2011/12 17%
Proportion of children living in workless households UK 0-15 ONS 2013 14%

Table notes:

  1. A child in the HBAI (Households Below Average Income) is defined as as an individual under 16 or anyone aged 16 to 19 who is not married, in a civil partnership or living with a partner, who is living with parents and who is in full-time non-advanced education or unwaged Government training.

Download table

Personal finance can have a significant impact on people's sense of well-being and the financial situation of the population is an important aspect of National Well-being. It is also important for the well-being of children.

The headline measures proposed within this domain include children living in relative poverty and workless households.

Children Living in Poverty

While on average, children living in low income families do not report low levels of well-being, poverty in childhood has very strong associations with children’s outcomes in life (Bradshaw, 2011). Household income is important because of the impact it has on whether children themselves feel materially deprived, that they ‘have enough’ or ‘fit in’ (Children’s Society, 2012a).

The chosen measure of relative low income is one of four income related targets set out in the Child Poverty Act 2010. This measures the proportion of children living in households where income is less than 60% of median household income, Before Housing Cost using the Households Below Average Income data1

Other income-based measures are available for children living in absolute low income, combined low income and material deprivation and persistent poverty (see DWP Statistical First Release, Low income and Material Deprivation in the UK).

Workless households

Children whose parents are in employment are at a reduced risk of poverty and its effects. Children in workless households are much more likely to live in low income households than those families with at least one adult in work2.

Other potential measures

Other potential measures for this domain include subjective measures based on children’s views. The Good Childhood Index (Children’s Society, 2013) identified satisfaction with money and possessions as one of 12 important aspects of children’s lives. The Children’s Society and the University of York have also undertaken research to develop an index of child-centred and child-reported measures of material well-being (The Children’s Society, 2012b).

Notes for Personal Finance

  1. The preferred measure of low income for children is based on incomes measures Before Housing Costs, as After Housing Costs measures can underestimate the true standard of living of families who choose to spend more on housing to attain a higher standard of accommodation. Households Below Average Income (HBAI) uses household disposable incomes, after adjusting for the household size and composition, as a proxy for material living standards. Changes in relative low-income measures depend on how changing incomes at the lower end of the distribution compare with income growth for the rest of the population.
  2. DWP Statistical Release on Households Below Average Income, June 2013.

Education and Skills

Proposed headline measures

Measure Geographic coverage Age group Source Latest year  Latest data
Proportion of 3 and 4 year olds participating in funded early years education places England 3-4 Department for Education 2013 96%
Proportion of children who achieved 5 or more GCSEs or equivalent A*-C including English and Maths England/Wales/Northern Ireland In last year of compulsory education Department for Education 2010–11 59%
Proportion of children with relatively high level of happiness with their school UK 10-15 Understanding Society 2011–12 83%
Proportion of children who would like to go on to full-time education at a college or university UK 10-15 Understanding Society 2011–12 62%

Download table

Children’s education and development of skills are important for their well-being and for that of the nation as a whole. Learning ensures that children develop the knowledge and understanding, skills, capabilities and attributes which they need for mental, emotional, social and physical well-being now and in the future (ONS, 2012).

This domain includes participation in early years education, achievements in formal qualifications and measures of how school children feel about their well-being at school and future aspirations.

Early years education

The importance of early education for an individual’s future well-being has been emphasised and supported by the provision of funded part-time nursery places  and the associated inspection of the quality of provision for these children. The aim of early education is to promote personal, social and emotional development; physical development; and communication and language.

Compulsory Education

In line with national well-being measures, a measure of pupils’ academic performance is included as measured by achievement in their last year of compulsory education. Children’s circumstances affect how well a child does in school and examinations. Data on qualifications by pupil characteristics are available (for example, those eligible for Free School Meals, looked after children and SEN(see ONS paper 2012 for an overview). Other potential measures are also available for education attainments at different key stages2.

Feelings about school

It is not just children’s attendance at school but also children’s experience within the school that is important to their overall well-being. A study of the ALSPAC (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children) of pupil and school effects during primary school found that different children have different experiences even at the same school and that for well-being, ‘child-school’ fit is as important as attending a particular school (Gutman and Feinstein, 2008).

A measure of happiness with school has been included as a headline measure. A further potential measure of school engagement – happiness with school work – is also available from Understanding Society.

Aspirations for the future

Expectations for the future is one of the ten aspects of children’s well-being identified by the Children’s Society in the Good Childhood Index. The future aspirations of children can be measured by what children hope to do when they leave school.

Other potential measures

There are several other potential measures available for the ‘Education and skills’ domain which include school readiness, parental involvement and school absenteeism / exclusion:

School readiness:
School readiness includes the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile in England which provides assessment against 17 early learning goals (ELG). An individual is deemed to have reached a good level of development if they have achieved the expected level in 12 of these ELGs in the key areas of learning and in the specific areas of mathematics and literacy.

Parental involvement:

Data from Understanding Society is available on parental involvement in education.

School absenteeism and exclusion:

Children who are persistently absent from school lose out on learning and may fail to catch up with their peers.

Notes for Education and Skills

  1. In England all 4-year-olds have been entitled to a funded early education place since 1998 and in 2004 this was extended to all 3-year-olds.
  2. Further information about the results at Key Stages 1 and Key Stages 2 in England.

About the ONS Measuring National Well-being Programme

This article is published as part of the ONS Measuring National Well-being Programme.

The programme aims to produce accepted and trusted measures of the well-being of the nation - how the UK as a whole is doing. It is about looking at 'GDP and beyond' and includes:

  • Greater analysis of the national economic accounts, especially to understand household income, expenditure and wealth.

  • Further accounts linked to the national accounts, including the UK Environmental Accounts and valuing household production and 'human capital'.

  • Quality of life measures, looking at different areas of national well-being such as health, relationships, job satisfaction, economic security, education environmental conditions.

  • Working with others to include the measurement of the well-being of children and young people as part of national well-being.

  • Measures of 'personal well-being' - individuals' assessment of their own well-being.

  • Headline indicators to summarise national well-being and the progress we are making as a society.

The programme is underpinned by a communication and engagement workstream, providing links with Cabinet Office and policy departments, international developments, the public and other stakeholders. The programme is working closely with Defra on the measurement of 'sustainable development' to provide a complete picture of national well-being, progress and sustainable development.

Find out more on the Measuring National Well-being website pages.


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Background notes

  1. Authors: Sian Bradford, Rachel O'Brien and Veronique Siegler

  2. Understanding Society is a unique and valuable academic study that captures important information every year about the social and economic circumstances and attitudes of people living in 40,000 UK households. It also collects additional health information from around 20,000 of the people who take part.

    Information from the longitudinal survey is primarily used by academics, researchers and policy makers in their work, but the findings are of interest to a much wider group of people including those working in the third sector, health practitioners, business, the media and the general public.

    The data in this analysis is from the youth self-completion questionnaire module of Waves 1-3 of the Survey and has been weighted using the combined cross-sectional youth interview weight.

    More information about the UKHLS.

  3. The Children's Society has been running a regular online well-being survey since July 2010 with a sample of 2,000 children and their parents, which uses a household panel that is run by the research agency Research Now. The survey was run every quarter until 2013 and then every six months since January 2013. Each wave has so far covered a representative sample of approximately 2,000 children, initially in UK, but in GB since wave 3 of the survey. The survey includes quota sampling for age, gender and family socio-economic status (i.e. occupation of the main income earner, information provided by parent). Waves 1 to 9 included children aged 8 to 15, while Wave 10 included children aged 10 to 17.  Each wave of the survey has included a standard set of questions that make up “The Good Childhood Index” together with questions covering additional topics which have varied for each wave. The three ONS questions were added as additional questions for the first time in wave 7 and repeated them in waves 8, 9 and 10. For more information about these surveys, see:

  4. The age range for the proposed headline measure for the proportion of children living in households with less than 60% of median income has been amended from 0-15 to 0-19 and now includes the full definition of a child used in the HBAI for clarification.

  5. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting or from the Media Relations Office email:

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