About this article


  1. Personal well-being overview

  2. Personal well-being ONS4

  3. Personal well-being publications

  4. Personal well-being guidance and methodology

  5. Personal well-being FAQs

  6. Personal well-being outputs and user feedback

1. Personal well-being overview

Personal well-being (PWB) is part of the wider Measuring National Well-being (MNW) Programme at the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which aims to provide accepted and trusted measures of the nation’s well-being. The MNW work is part of an initiative, both in the UK and internationally, to look beyond traditional headline economic growth figures to establish progress on how we are doing as individuals, as communities and as a nation, and how sustainable this is for the future. The measures include both standard objective measures, such as income and health, and people’s own views about their lives.

We assess personal well-being using four measures (often referred to as the ONS4), which capture three types of well-being: evaluative, eudemonic and affective 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. Our measures of personal well-being ask people to assess each of these aspects of their lives.

One of the main benefits of collecting information on personal well-being is that it is based on people’s views of their own individual well-being. In the past, assumptions were made about how objective conditions, such as people’s health and income, might influence their individual well-being. Personal well-being measures, on the other hand, take account of what matters to people by allowing them to decide what is important when they respond to questions.

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 with people in other countries.

2. Personal well-being ONS4

We use four survey questions to measure personal well-being and are asked to respond to the questions on a scale of 0 to 10.

These are known as the ONS4.

We first added these four questions to the Annual Population Survey (APS) in April 2011. This is the source of the National Statistics estimates of personal well-being in the UK that we publish.

These questions represent a harmonised 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 our personal well-being questions, please see Surveys using the four ONS personal well-being questions.

For the complete questionnaire documentation please refer to the Labour Force Survey – user guidance.

3. Personal well-being publications

Personal well-being data from the Annual Population Survey (APS) are available on both one-year and three-year datasets:

  • the one-year datasets are published quarterly based on the previous year’s data; the first one-year dataset covered the financial year ending 2012

  • the three-year datasets were originally produced on a financial-year basis (April 2011 to March 2014 and April 2012 to March 2015); however, these are now published on a calendar-year basis, the first one being January 2013 to December 2015

Since July 2016, personal well-being datasets are no longer included in a separate personal well-being APS dataset but in the main APS dataset release, allowing for analysis by more domains.

Personal well-being estimates are published within five months from the end of the reporting period for the quarterly releases. The personal well-being three-year dataset is published annually with a time lag of 12 months.

Headline estimates of how people view their well-being in the UK are provided alongside estimates for:

  • countries within the UK and lower geographic areas, such as local authority level

  • main demographic characteristics

  • other characteristics that previous research has found to be important determinants of well-being

The most recent publications can be found on our well-being homepage.

4. Personal well-being guidance and methodology

Personal well-being is presented as both average means and thresholds. Thresholds present the proportion responding in defined response categories as outlined in Table 1. Cognitive testing was undertaken to understand how respondents chose their score on the 11-point scale and what they considered to be “high”, “low” and “average” ratings of personal well-being. These discussions are outlined in Overview of ONS phase three cognitive testing of subjective well-being questions (PDF, 328KB).

The Annual Population Survey (APS) is a continuous household survey covering the UK (excluding those in communal establishments). Its aim is to provide estimates between censuses of important social and labour market variables at a local-area level. The APS is not a stand-alone survey but uses data combined from two waves of the main Labour Force Survey (LFS) with data collected on a local sample boost. For more information on the APS, please see the Annual Population Survey Quality and Methodology Information report.

The APS datasets are weighted to reflect the size and composition of the general population, by using the most up-to-date official population data. Weighting factors take account of the design of the survey (which does not include communal establishments) and the composition of the local population by age and sex. The APS datasets are reweighted historically to use more up-to-date mid-year population estimates and subnational projection estimates.

For further information, please see the Personal well-being in the UK Quality and Methodology Information report (QMI).

Supporting information on methodological aspects on the APS can be found in Volume 6 of the APS User Guide.

5. Personal well-being FAQs

For more information on personal well-being, please see the frequently asked questions (FAQs), which are updated as required.

6. Personal well-being outputs and user feedback

We always aim to enhance the quality of the personal well-being outputs and consider different analysis to better meet user needs.

We have been using various groups and ways to engage with users of personal well-being data, including consultations and user feedback on content, format and presentation of personal well-being results following releases.

If you would like to provide feedback about well-being outputs, please contact us at QualityOfLife@ons.gov.uk or complete this on-going feedback survey.