My feeling/observation is that "the community" has failed to come up with a working definition of well-being so the vacuume is filled by waffle that it is impossible to address because we don't have the ammunition.
Sure it is not possible to come up with a succinct definition of well-being for everyone but it is possible to come up with a definition for the ONS studies so that we can say for the purposes of study X we are defining well being as xyz.
The opening page of the "Measuring National Well-being: Life in the UK, 2012"http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/wellbeing/measuring-national-well-being/first-annual-report-on-measuring-national-well-being/art-measuring-national-well-being-annual-report.html#tab-Introduction-and-background
is a case in point opening with:
"The well-being of the nation is influenced by a broad range of factors including economic performance, quality of life, the state of the environment, sustainability, equality, as well as individual well-being."
Instead of tackling the big question of what well-being is and slaying the beast that is 'happiness' the report starts by fudging it even more. This sentence is just crazy!
As we haven't said what well-being is to say that it is influenced by 'economic performance' is odd. In wikipedia this would be marked as  - but this isn't wikipedia. The term economic performance in itself is vague including a large range of measure.
It also says that well being is influenced by 'quality of life'. I think a lot about this stuff but I would struggle to describe the difference between well-being and quality of life. Wikipedia says:
The term quality of life
) references the general well-being
of individuals and societies.
Then we have well-being of a nation compared with well-being of individuals!
So the first major report opens with a sentence that is just about as vague and tautological as it is possible to get. If I were reviewing a paper then I would strike this sentence out and if it was in wikipedia it would probably be deleted - but this is neither wikipedia nor a peer reviewed paper it is a report from our office for national statistics.
So quite frankly I don't blame the journalists for getting it wrong when government agencies can't put out clear statements.
My personal preference would be to stick with measures of psychological/social/medical 'happiness' of individuals (as I have previously outlined in a ranty blog post
) and drop all the rest of it.
The whole well-being thing is like watching a train crash in slow motion.
Sorry to be so negitive but better that than silent!
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