National Accounts of Well-being in the news

Since the launch of the report and the website last Saturday, nef‘s proposal for National Accounts of Well-being has been receiving plenty of attention from the media. Click on the hyperlinks in the text below to view the articles or programmes.

The most comprehensive coverage came from the BBC. They did two television interviews with Nic Marks, the founder of nef‘s centre for well-being and co-author of the report, once at nef offices and again in the BBC studios. Nic was also interviewed on radio, as was Dr Sam Thompson, another of the report’s co-authors. The BBC News website has a good article about National Accounts, with the slightly misleading headline ‘Britons bored but happy’. The confusion seems to stem from the fact that British people perform reasonable well on ‘positive emotions’, what might conventionally be called ‘feeling happy’. But even though we come above the European average on this measure, we still come more than 0.5 points lower than Switzerland, the highest scoring country in this category (a meaningful difference on our 0-10 scale). So while we’re not performing as poorly as some countries, we’re hardly as happy as we could be. It’s also worth remembering that positive emotions are only one component of overall well-being.

The BBC has its own resident happiness expert in home affairs editor Mark Easton, who has presented the BBC2 documentary The Happiness Formula back in 2006. Judging from his blog article on National Accounts of Well-being, Mark has enjoyed playing around with the tools on this website. He presents a chart of Europe’s levels of trust and belonging as his ‘Map of the Week’, and discusses the debates around research carried out by Richard Easterlin on why ever increasing amounts of money can’t make us happy.

The newspapers seemed to relish the gloomiest parts of the report. The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mail both focused on what the report said about Britain’s young people having the lowest levels of trust and belonging anywhere in Europe, while The Guardian described how Britons are ‘tired, suspicious, bored and lonely’.

National Accounts of Well-being have also received international recognition thanks in part to being picked up major news agencies like Reuters and the Press Association. Stories about National Accounts have appeared in Germany, Poland, Norway, Switzerland and Qatar.