About this article
This article contains methodology guidance on the Personal Well-being estimates.
- Personal well-being overview
- PWB ONS4
- PWB publications
- PWB FAQ
- PWB Guidance and Methodology
1. Personal Well-being Overview
Personal well-being (PWB) also known as "subjective well-being" is about people evaluating their own lives. There are several ways in which this can be looked at. We assess personal well-being using 4 measures which capture 3 types of well-being; evaluative, eudemonic and experience. These measures ask people to evaluate how satisfied they are with their life overall, asking whether they feel they have meaning and purpose in their life, and asks about their emotions during a particular period. The ONS measures of personal well-being ask people to assess each of these aspects of their lives.
Personal well-being is one of the many ways in which the Measuring National Well-being programme at ONS aims to assess the progress of the nation, looking both at standard objective measures such as income and health and at people’s own views about their lives. Monitoring personal well-being across the nation year on year will help to show how people feel their quality of life changes in relation to changes in circumstances, policies and wider events in society. It will also show how people in the UK evaluate their lives compared to people in other countries across the world.
2. PWB ONS4
ONS uses four survey questions to measure personal well-being:
Next I would like to ask you four questions about your feelings on aspects of your life. There are no right or wrong answers. For each of these questions I’d like you to give an answer on a scale of nought to 10, where nought is ‘not at all’ and 10 is ‘completely’.
Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?
Overall, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?
Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?
On a scale where nought is ‘not at all anxious’ and 10 is ‘completely anxious’, overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?
These are known as the ONS4.
ONS first added these four questions to the Annual Population Survey (APS) in April 2011. This is the source of the National Statistic estimates of personal well-being in the UK that are published by ONS.
These questions are seen as the gold standard for measuring personal well-being, and therefore are used in many surveys across the UK. For more information about the other surveys that include some or all of the ONS personal well-being questions, please see Surveys using the four ONS personal well-being questions.
For the complete questionnaire documentation please refer to Labour Force Survey user guide volume 2.
3. PWB publications
Personal well-being estimates are published annually, and contain UK estimates of personal characteristics, such as age and sex, as well as regional estimates. Measures of quality are also available, such as the lower and upper confidence levels, and the sample sizes. These can be used to assess the quality of the estimate for each breakdown.
A statistical bulletin is published alongside these data tables that contain a descriptive overview of the data. The most recent publication can be found on our website.
Annual personal well-being estimates have traditionally been published 5 months after the end of the reporting period for the annual release. For the time period April 2015to March 2016 onwards we have reduced this time lag to 3 months.
A three year personal well-being dataset has also been developed in response to user demand for more robust personal well-being data at low levels of geography, such as local authority district level (LAD). The 3 year personal well-being dataset will also allow for more robust analysis of the sub groups in the population.
The personal well-being 3-year dataset and associated results are published annually with a time lag of 12 months and 10 months respectively. This is something that we plan to address with the aim of reducing this time lag further.
4. PWB FAQ
For more information on personal well-being, please see the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) which will be updated as required.
5. PWB Guidance and Methodology
Personal well-being is available on both annual and three-year APS datasets. Annual datasets begin from April 2011 to March 2012. Three-year datasets are available from the time period April 2011 to March 2014.
Overall estimates of people’s views about their own well-being are provided in these releases as well as estimates for: key demographic characteristics (such as age, sex, ethnic group), different geographic areas and countries within the UK and aspects which are considered important for measuring national well-being (such as personal relationships, health and work situation).
Both the annual and three-year releases of personal well-being include mean averages and thresholds, (the proportion of people reporting defined responses on a 0 to 10 scale). The distributions of the thresholds for all four questions are below.
|Life Satisfaction, Worthwhile and Happiness scores||Anxiety scores|
|0 - 4||Low||0 - 1||Very low|
|5 – 6||Medium||2 - 3||Low|
|7 – 8||High||4 - 5||Medium|
|9 - 10||Very high||6 - 10||High|
|Source: Office for National Statistics|
Download this table.xls
From the April 2015 to March 2016 dataset onwards, the personal well-being questions will be provided on the APS dataset and not separate personal well-being APS datasets as done previously. As such, personal well-being data will be re-weighted on an annual basis. Re-weighting involves the calibration of weights so that they sum to the most recent population estimates.
This change means a slight adaption to the personal well-being weight, and the dataset construction. As such we have re-calculated the back series of personal well-being questions from the earliest time period 2011/12 through to the most recent time point 2015/16, which is included in this release. The following note presents the results of sensitivity testing, to compare estimates generated between the existing and new method.
For further information, please see the Quality and Methodology Information (QMI) for personal well-being.
Supporting information on methodological aspects on the APS can be found in the Volume 6: APS User Guide.
Download this article
- Opinions and Lifestyle Survey: Methodological Investigation into Response Scales in Personal Well-being (pdf, 497.3 kB)
- Opinions and Lifestyle Survey: Methodological Investigation into the Societal module (pdf, 884.2 kB)
- Surveys using the 4 ONS personal well-being questions as of February 2015 (pdf, 152.6 kB)
Contact details for this Methodology
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 455680
You might also be interested in:
- Personal well-being in the UK: July 2016 to June 2017
- Personal Well-being frequently asked questions
- Personal Well-being in the UK QMI
- Measuring National Well-being: At what age is Personal Well-being the highest?
- Measuring National Well-being, What matters most to Personal Well-being?
- Personal Well-being in your area - interactive maps
- Measuring National Well-being Interactive Wheel
- OECD measuring subjective well-being
- Eurostat Quality of Life indicators
- APS User Guide