Societal Wellbeing

From Opasnet
Jump to: navigation, search

Main message:

what are the important areas to Societal Well-being ?


measurement of social, economic and environmental dimensions is way to develop the concern of social well-being.

it is difficult to identify how the wellbeing of society is evolving, and how it should be measured. it is clear that societal wellbeing measures should include social, economic and environmental dimensions. On 19 July last year, 68 countries joined the Kingdom of Bhutan in co-sponsoring a resolution titled “Happiness: Towards a holistic approach to development,” which was adopted by consensus by the 193-member UN General Assembly. However, is relevant data available to provide a comprehensive depiction for the UK and crucially, to be able to see how wellbeing overall is changing overtime?

⇤--#: . Focus on the question: How to measure societal well-being? What Cameron has said is nice to know but not the main point here. Rather, find links to pages of projects that try and answer the question about measuring. --Jouni 05:54, 19 April 2012 (EEST) (type: truth; paradigms: science: attack)

Bhutan Conference on Happiness and Economic Development

From August 10-12th, 2011, His Excellency Prime Minister Jigme Thinley of the Kingdom of Bhutan and Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute and Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General, hosted the Conference on Happiness and Economic Development in Thimphu, Bhutan. The conference brought together over 40 international participants including Chief Minister of Assam Tarun Gogoi, General Secretary of All-India Congress Party Digvijaya Singh, Lord Richard Layard, Professor Peter Singer and other esteemed participants. The Conference was foreshadowed by a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly on Happiness: Towards a Holistic Approach to Development, sponsored by the Kingdom of Bhutan and co-sponsored by dozens of other countries. This resolution recognized the pursuit of happiness as a universal goal and calls on member states to elaborate measurements of happiness and economic wellbeing to better guide public policies. [1]


Government and non-government officials, politicians, leading economists, scholars, academics and also religious leaders were expected to gather to discuss methods the Bhutanese government proposed towards obtaining gross national happiness. [2]

  • The draft outcome of the meeting includes a report containing a synthesis of discussions, thoughts, views and recommendations following the meeting to be submitted to the UN secretary general, who will then share it with all UN member states.
  • Governments worldwide should take immediate steps to adopt the new wellbeing and an economic paradigm based on sustainability.
  • Recommendations for inclusion into policies the principles of the new economy government worldwide could consider for voluntary adoption, were also suggested.
  • Promotion of green technologies and poverty alleviation and investments in sustainable infrastructure like support for green businesses, renewable energy, clean technology and energy efficiency.

Agreements and Outcomes of the Bhutan Conference

The key points of agreement and outcomes of the conference were: [3]

1) There was a broad consensus that happiness is a valid objective for society and also for the individuals. There was much rich discussion about this complex topic and subject. It is a valid point of departure for a government’s policy or for an individual’s objective.

2) Despite the crisis of modernization, global happiness can be raised. It can be raised by human agency or will power, but it is possible to use the human spirit to raise happiness. One of the important aspects mentioned was that happiness is not a 0 sum state – if anything, it is a positive sum proposition.

3) The happiness agenda should not be considered anti-technological or anti-material. There is no going back to a simpler life for a basic arithmetic reason. We are now 7 billion people with a tremendous difficulty of provision, meeting the needs of people, being able to operate complex societies. Any attempt to turn back technology would likely lead to devastation.

4) The happiness agenda and imperative leads to certain ideas:

  • Reduction of extreme suffering.
  • Awareness and avoidance of pure status goods.
  • Controlling the media in a way that doesn’t limit freedom but restrains the creation of artificial cravings.
  • Ecological prioritization

5) Implication for government policies:

  • Crucial role for measurement: It is basically a bio-feedback mechanism. That is the hard practice of learning meditation, and should be the same thing for government policy.
  • Focus on areas of deprivation/isolation/aging/high vulnerability
  • Address communities as communities and empower them.
  • Focus on education
  • Governments need to pay more attention to mental health
  • The focus on the city is a supreme challenge.

6) Identification of many allies:

  • Public health and mental health community
  • Educators
  • Religious leaders
  • Environmentalists and conversationalists

Conference Summary

Dasho Karma Ura, the President of the Center for Bhutan Studies and Professor Jeffrey Sachs laid out the agenda of the conference during their introductory remarks. Sachs highlighted the leadership of the Government of Bhutan in spreading the philosophy of Gross National Happiness; most recently evidenced through the passion of UN Resolution Towards a Holistic Approach to Development. Sachs provided a historical, cultural and economic overview of the inter-connected challenges facing the world today, and the need for a deeper and more holistic attitude towards human well-being and therefore economic and political management.

Conference Summary: Session 1

During the first session, Professor Peter Singer and Lord Richard Layard discussed the historical and philosophical underpinnings of the of the role of happiness in the world. Singer provided a valuable ethical analysis of major questions related to happiness, including providing insights on the difference between Aristotle and Jeremy Bentham/John Stuart Mill which proved to be a very useful distinction for deliberations. Lord Layard provided with a global overview of the discipline of happiness studied and described how this discipline should impact public policy, corporate behavior, educational instruction and family/individual behavior.

Conference Summary: Session 2

The second session included an overview of Gross National Happiness and its implementation, by, Dasho Karma Tshiteem, Secretary of the Gross National Happiness Commission. He explained the technical underpinnings of the GNH Index and how public policy is influenced by GNH measurements

Conference Summary: Session 3

The third session included presentations by Professor Carol Graham of the Brookings Institutions and Professor John Helliwell of the University of British Columbia. Professors Graham and Helliwell are experts in the economics of happiness. Their presentations have provided overviews of the important indicators, studies and technical background of the subject.

Conference Summary: Session 4

The fourth session, chaired by Dr. Nirupam Bajpai, Director, Columbia Global Centres, South Asia and Senior Development Advisor, the Earth Institute featured remarks by His Excellency Tarun Gogoi, Chief Minister of Assam and Digvijaya Singh, General Secretary of the All India Congress Committee. Dr. Bajpai said that happiness was a state of mind and differed from person to person and since desires and aspirations were different for people living in rural or urban locations, happiness for one would be defined differently than that for another. He listed issues like the Right to Information and the National Rural Employment Guarantee program that the Government had put together which played a critical role in raising awareness and strengthening livelihood strategies for the Indian population and hence their happiness. Tarun Gogoi praised the Fourth King of Bhutan, His Highness Jigme Singhe Wangchuk who visualized the concept of Gross National Happiness and brought in democracy in Bhutan [4].

Sustainability and Happiness: Towards a Holistic Approach to Development

Thirty years ago, the Fourth King of Bhutan famously proclaimed that, Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product, thereby setting Bhutan on a holistic development path that seeks to integrate sustainable and equitable socioeconomic development with environmental conservation, cultural promotion and good governance. This “happiness” has nothing to do with the common use of that word to denote an ephemeral, passing mood - happy today or unhappy tomorrow, due to some temporary external condition like praise or blame, gain or loss. Rather, it refers to the deep, abiding happiness that comes from living life in full harmony with the natural world, with our communities and fellow beings, and with our culture and spiritual heritage - in short from feeling totally connected with our world.

Myriad scholarly studies now show that massive gains in GDP and income have not made us happier. On the contrary, respected economists have demonstrated empirically that deep social networks are a far better predictor of satisfaction and wellbeing than income and material gain.

It is significant that the term Gross National Happiness was first coined in direct contrast with Gross National Product - literally as a sharp critique of our current materialist obsession and growth-based economic system. And it is even more significant that the statement was not made in relation to Bhutan alone, but as a universal proclamation - true for the world and for all beings. The universal chord it struck explains why 68 nations joined Bhutan in co- sponsoring its UN General Assembly resolution in July 2011 on “Happiness: Towards a Holistic Approach to Development” that was passed by consensus, without dissenting vote, by the 193-member United Nations.

Assessing progress in the Kingdom of Bhutan is according to nine domains : living standards, health, education, culture, ecological integrity, community vitality, time use, good governance and psychological wellbeing. From those results, a GNH Index could be created, and use these indicators actively as a policy screening tool. Indeed, no major policy is implemented in Bhutan if it fails the GNH indicator test. In order to measure progress accurately and properly, indicators are not enough. GDP, after all, is not an indicator, but an accounting system. To challenge the continued dominance of narrow GDP-based measures, a new holistic accounting system is being built that properly accounts for the value of our nation’s natural, human, social, and cultural capital ; and not only the manufactured and financial capital currently counted.

Globally, most of the true wealth as nations is currently invisible and ignored, and that is a dangerous illusion that leads to dangerous policies. So in February this year UN released the first natural, human, and social capital results of their new National Accounts, which will be the foundation of the new economy we need to build.

A global action was proposed to build a new world economic system that is no longer based on the illusion that limitless growth is possible on our precious and finite planet, or that endless material gain promotes wellbeing. Instead it will be a system that promotes harmony and respect for nature and for each other, that respects the ancient wisdom, traditions and protects the most vulnerable people as one’s own family, and that will gives us the time to live and enjoy our lives and to appreciate rather than destroy our world. It will be an economic system, in short, that is fully sustainable and that is rooted in true, abiding wellbeing and happiness.

Sustainability is the essential basis and pre-condition of such a sane economic system. But an economy exists not for mere survival but to provide the enabling conditions for human happiness and the wellbeing of all life forms. The new economy will be an economy based on a genuine vision of life’s ultimate meaning and purpose - an economy that does not cut us off from nature and community, but fosters true human potential, fulfilment, and happiness [5].


Recommendation was developed for inclusion into policies the principles of the new economy government worldwide could consider for voluntary adoption were suggested. The suggestions included:

  • Promotion of green technologies and poverty alleviation and investments in sustainable infrastructure, like support for green businesses, renewable energy, clean technology and energy efficiency.
  • Banning advertising to children to dismantle incentives to excessive consumption, and for governments to introduce work sharing policies that reduce overwork, increase leisure time and prevent layoffs.
  • Government procurement from local, organic and fair trade sources, to encourage local economies, and fair trade systems that promote sustainable production methods and fair returns to producers.
  • Need to value non-market assets and services to measure progress more accurately and comprehensively, through creation of accounts that value natural, cultural, human and social dynamics.
  • Need for ecological tax reforms that tax pollution and depletion of natural capital.

Role of the Government

[6] Governments can play several key roles in order to increase human happiness by taking actions which include:

  • Measuring and monitoring happiness, drawing on the growing science of subjective well-being.
  • Focusing on vulnerable sectors of society, and in particular the deprived, the isolated, and the elderly.
  • The empowerment of communities and the cultivation of communal cohesion.
  • The cultivation of proven psychological and ethical foundations for happiness within the public education system.
  • Investing in mental health, which is a promising domain and highly cost-effective way to increase happiness.
  • Focusing on well-being in the urban environment, which is often a challenge as our world becomes increasingly urbanized and traditional structures are broken.
  • In pursuing national happiness policies, government can and should form strong alliances with the public health and mental health community, educators, religious and spiritual leaders, and environmentalists among others.

Societal Well-being at Great Britain

The UK government is poised to start measuring people's psychological and environmental wellbeing, bidding to be among the first countries to officially monitor happiness.

After becoming Conservative leader in 2005, Mr Cameron said that gauging people's wellbeing was one of the central political issues of our time.

It's time we admitted that there's more to life than money and it's time we focused not just on GDP but on GWB – general well-being. Well-being can't be measured by money or traded in markets. It's about the beauty of our surroundings, the quality of our culture and, above all, the strength of our relationships. – David Cameron, November 2010.

Despite "nervousness" in Downing Street at the prospect of testing the national mood amid deep cuts and the riot in Westminster, the Office of National Statistics will had been asked to produce measures to implement David Cameron's long-stated ambition of gauging "general wellbeing".[7]

Jo Swinson, one of the Liberal Democrat MP mentioned, "while it's not government's job to make people happy, regular measures of wellbeing will at least make sure it is taken into account"[8].

UK aims to identify key components of wellbeing and explore existing datasets that could help building a picture of societal wellbeing, quality of life and progress in the UK. The first step to measure the progress of society, is to define wellbeing. In 2006, the Department for Environment and Rural Affair's (DEFRA’s) 'Whitehall Wellbeing Working Group' (membership includes government departments, devolved administrations, the Environment Agency, Improvement and Development Agency for Local Government and the Sustainable Development Commission to steer research, share information and consider the policy implications of the research into wellbeing) agreed a statement of common understanding of wellbeing for policy makers:

Wellbeing is a positive, social and mental state; it is not just the absence of pain, discomfort and incapacity. It arises not only from the action of individuals but from a host of collective goods and relationships with other people. It requires that basic needs are met, that individuals have a sense of purpose, and that they feel able to achieve important personal goals and participate in society. It is enhanced by conditions that include supportive personal relationships, involvement in empowered communities, good health, financial security, rewarding employment and a healthy and attractive environment.

Survey Analysis

[9] In the survey 4,200 people were asked respondents to rank from nought to 10 how satisfied they were and how anxious they felt the previous day.

When asked about how satisfied they were, 76% rated themselves as seven out of 10, where 10 was completely and nought was not at all. The ONS said that they are initial findings.

The UK statistics body added four questions to the ONS household survey that took place between April and August in the year 2011, at the request of the government.

The questions included:

  • Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?
  • Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?
  • Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?
  • Overall, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?

When asked how happy they felt the previous day, the results showed 73% rated themselves as seven or more out of 10.

To the question about leading a worthwhile life, 78% of the respondents rated themselves seven or more out of 10.

On top of those subjective questions, the ONS is planning to measure these four major areas:

  • Childhood
  • Economy and inequality
  • Health
  • Work/life balance

Happiness Index

In November 2011, prime minister David Cameron launched a separate "happiness index" to measure the well-being of UK citizens. He admitted that measuring happiness could be seen as "woolly" and "impractical" but said that the £2m scheme was warranted because it was a better way of measuring how the country was doing than using gross domestic product (GDP) - the standard measure of economic activity. The prime minister has been long interested by the work and first idea of "happiness index" in 2005, by Professor Martin Seligman, one of the pioneers of positive psychology.

"You cannot capture happiness on a spreadsheet any more than you can bottle it - and if anyone was trying to reduce the whole spectrum of human happiness into one snapshot statistic I would be the first to roll my eyes," he said at the time.


[10] Well-being can be defined as a positive mental state. Initially embraced by some psychologists as a means of focusing attention on health and satisfaction with life rather than on mental illness and its remedies. It has been adopted more widely by a range of social scientists and some policy-makers. Well-being has been defined as:

A dynamic state, in which the individual is able to develop their potential, work productively and creatively, build strong and positive relationships with others and contribute to their community. It is enhanced when an individual is able to fulfil their personal and social goals and achieve a sense of purpose in society. (Government Office for Science, 2008, 10)

It is also associated with qualities as confidence, optimism about the future, a sense of influence over one's own destiny and the social competence that promote satisfying and supportive relationship with other people and not simply with an absence of diagnosed illness, disability or dissatisfaction. It also critically involves the resilense that needed to deal with hard time as and when they occur. In policy terms, it can be defined as the condition which allows individuals and communities to flourish.

Lack of Positive Mental States and Happiness in Britain

[11] It seems plausible to connect the rise of academic and policy interest in happiness and well-being with the dilemmas of life in an affluent but highly risky society. Analyses of survey data have repeatedly shown that once a society reaches a particular level of affluence, further increases in material wealth produce very limited changes in people’s self-reported happiness. And, in what may seem a remarkable paradox for an affluent society like Britain, there is widespread concern over rising levels of depression and stress, and over the resulting costs to society, organisations, and individuals. The concept of well-being has developed as a way of focusing on positive mental states, and the removal or reduction of those factors that are likely to prevent people from thriving.

A recent report for the King’s Fund estimated that there are around 828,000 people with moderate to severe depression in England (McCrone et al., 2008) resulting in huge costs through lost tax revenue and dependency on incapacity benefits. The report puts the total economic cost of mental illness at £49 billion in 2007. Yet, mental health accounts for a mere 13 per cent of NHS spending. Further, it was estimated that occupational stress costs UK businesses some £5 billion a year, and an additional £3.8 billion to British society.

A report presented by New Economics Foundation (Nef), which is one of a number of projects aiming to study the concept of wellbeing, stated the British as tired, suspicious, bored and lonely. Researchers asked 42,000 people in 22 countries around 50 questions based on two concepts: personal wellbeing, and broader social wellbeing. Britain comes third from the bottom in western Europe.Young people aged 16-24 in Britain have the lowest levels of trust and belonging in Europe and a fifth of the population reports having restless sleep most or all of the time, and 28% say they almost never wake up feeling rested. Across Europe, the British have the second lowest levels of energy. Britain is also the most bored nation in western Europe, with 8% feeling bored most of the time; a fifth said they felt their everyday activities were neither valuable nor worthwhile.

Happiness and Well-being at Workplace in Britain

[12] The happiness and well-being of Britain’s workforce is very important both economically and socially. Research suggests that employees who are happy and healthy are more productive and enjoy a better quality of life. A representative sample of 1,153 working people aged 18 years and over from across the UK were questioned. 60% of working people said they were “happy” at work. 38% say they are "unhappy", 2% were neutral, neither happy nor unhappy. People aged between 35 and 44 years appear to be the least happy at work. People aged over 65 years who continue working are most happy at work. Looking at all age groups, it appears people in Britain start off happy at work become least happy around their mid 40s and then start getting happier again as they grow older. On the same survey, 83% of working people in the UK reported that they were “happy” in their lives away from work. 15% said they were “unhappy” away from work. 2% were neutral. This suggests that employers could do more to lift the mood of the UK workforce. There is a strong case for employers taking steps to improve levels of happiness at work. Happy workers tend to be more productive, confident and motivated. Another area employers could target to improve happiness in the workplace is employee health and well-being, as more than one in five working people (22%) said they were unhappy with their general health and well-being.

Characterizing A Happy Person

According to Publilus Syrus, The happy man is not he who seems thus to others, but who seems thus to himself. Western culture has embraced happiness as one of its most important goals [13]. Michalos (1991, pp.20-28) has summarized the 'Profile of a Happy Person', drawn from several studies cited in that book. A happy person is likely to have low levels of fear, hostility, tension, anxiety, guilt and anger; high degrees of energy, vitality and activity; a high level of self-esteem and an emotionally stable personality; a strong social orientation; healthy, satisfying, warm love and social relationships; an active lifestyle with meaningful work; and to be relatively optimistic, worry-free, present-oriented and well-directed. Although one would be hard-pressed to condemn the life of someone with this sort of psychological profile, it is just that a psychological profile [14]

Measuring Happiness and Well-Being

[15] The Office for National Statistics Measuring National Well-being (MNW) Programme was launched in November 2010 to provide a fuller understanding of ‘how society is doing’ than economic measures alone can provide. It started with a national five-month debate on ‘What matters to you?’ in order to improve understanding of what should be included in measures of the nation’s well-being. More than 34,000 people gave their views. They believed that their well-being should be measured in terms of health, friends and family and job satisfaction. It was hoped that the "happiness index" will complement other measures such as GDP. The debate showed that the well-being of each individual is central to an understanding of national wellbeing. There are a number of factors that are thought to particularly influence individual well-being and so should be included in providing a picture of well-being in the UK. Individual well-being is intended to be measured by people’s overall assessment of their own well-being. This assessment includes not only people’s thoughts and feelings but also how much meaning and purpose they attribute to the activities they do in their lives.

[16] Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said, "GDP has increasingly become used as a measure of societal well-being, and changes in the structure of the economy and our society have made it an increasingly poor one, "It is time for our statistics system to put more emphasis on measuring the well-being of the population than on economic production."

Approaches to Measure Well-being

The Stiglitz-Sen-Fittoussi report suggests that using changes in GDP as the only measure of national well-being is insufficient and that other measures of the economy than GDP should be used together with wider measures of social progress, the state of the environment and sustainability.

Although there are a number of different approaches that can be taken when trying to define wellbeing, interestingly there is a considerable degree of overlap in what these approaches suggest should be measured. These include:

  • People’s material living standards (income, expenditure, housing conditions)
  • Health
  • Education and skills
  • Work (not just employment but the quality of people’s working lives)
  • Leisure time and Individual relationships
  • Subjective well-being (emotions, life satisfaction and sense of meaning and purpose)

Domains and Factors to Measure Well-being

The proposed domains should be a comprehensive and mutually exclusive set of categories to describe and help understand aspects of national well-being. They will provide a structure not only for the headline measures but also to provide routes to more detailed information, analysis and source data should reflect what was considered to be important by those who responded to the national debate and also reflect evidence from research.

The domains that have been proposed were:

  • Individual well-being: It is an area which the national debate showed was important to people It is proposed that this domain should include individual’s feelings of satisfaction with life, whether they feel their life is worthwhile and their positive and negative emotions.

More contextual domains:

  • Governance: It is the domain that intendeds to include democracy, trust in institutions and views about the UK’s interaction with other countries. All of which were included in responses to the national debate.
  • The economy: It is an important contextual measure for national well-being. The scope of this domain is intended to be measures of economic output and stock.
  • The natural environment: It is proposed as a domain in order to reflect areas mentioned during the national debate such as climate change, the natural environment, the effects our activities have on the global environment and natural disasters. It is planned to include measures which reflect these areas at the national level.

Factors directly affecting individual well-being:

  • Our relationships was chosen as a domain because it reflects many of the responses received during the national debate and because many theories of well-being report the importance of this area to an individual’s well-being. The scope of this domain is intended to be the extent and type of individuals’ relationships to their immediate family, their friends and the community around them.
  • Health also includes areas which were thought to be important by respondents to the national debate. It is anticipated that this domain would contain both subjective and objective measures of physical and mental health.
  • What we do aims to include work and leisure activities and the balance between them, all of which were common themes in the national debate responses.
  • Where we live is about an individual’s dwelling, their local environment and the type of community in which they live. Measures will be sought which reflect having a safe, clean and pleasant environment, access to facilities and being part of a cohesive community.
  • Personal finance is intended to include household income and wealth, its distribution and stability. Measures within this would also be used during analysis to address the concepts of poverty and equality mentioned in the national debate responses.
  • Education and skills is chosen as various aspects of education and life-long learning were mentioned during the national debate. The scope of this domain is the stock of human capital in the labour market with some more information about levels of educational achievement and skills.

Subjective Well-Being in London

[17] Subjective measures of well-being can be said to include general feelings of happiness, feeling that one’s activities are worthwhile, or being satisfied with family relationships. The Taking Part survey, administered by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport showed that between 2005/06 and 2010/11 the average happiness score has increased slightly from 7.41% to 7.65% in London. However, a number of factors seem to contribute to feelings of happiness in London and the rest of the UK alike. Seeing relatives and friends regularly has a significant positive impact on happiness. People who are married, cohabiting or in civil partnerships are happier than those who are single or divorced. There is a strong correlation between satisfaction with one’s life and satisfaction with local neighbourhood; and on average, people who own their own home are much happier that those who rent.

France in Measuring Well-Being

[18] The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy has called on the politicians to abandon GDP as a measure of national wealth and replace it with one that quantifies well-being alongside economic strength. Mr Sarkozy claimed the focus on GDP as the main measure of prosperity had helped to trigger the financial crisis and ordered France's statistics agency to integrate the findings of Mr Stiglitz's study into future economic analysis. For years we proclaimed the financial world a creator of wealth, until we learned one day that it had accumulated so much risk that it plunged us into chaos, he said. The President have mentioned that France would pioneer the new technique by Joseph Stiglitz and urge other countries to follow suit.

Well-being and Adult Learning

[19] Although there is a widely held view that adult learning has a positive impact on well-being, this proposition has only recently been systematically tested. Qualitative research has generally bolstered this experiential knowledge by providing persuasive learner accounts of the ways in which learning affected their lives, e.g. become more confident, more sociable, more positive about life and more cheerful as individuals as a result of their learning achievements. Since the 1990s this evidence has been complemented by quantitative analyses of the rich longitudinal data-sets that are available to British social scientists. Through the work of the Research Centre on the Wider Benefits of Learning (CWBL), the National Research and Development Centre on Literacy and Numeracy (NRDC) and the Centre on the Economics of Education (CEE), as well as some projects conducted under the Teaching and Learning Research Programme (TLRP), more is known about the impact of adult learning on health (including mental health), social participation, earnings, employability and sense of agency. It seems reasonable to hope and expect that learning will increase well-being and equally that a sense of well-being is likely to promote confident and effective learning but it is much less clear that learning ought to make you happy and people might hazard a guess that people who are very happy as they are might not feel much desire to learn.

Adult learning not only influences attitudes, also behaviours that affect people’s mental wellbeing. Some of the infl uence is direct, in that learning appears to promote skills particularly non-cognitive skills, including confi dence – that lead to positive wellbeing. Other benefits, such as higher earnings and employability, influence well-being indirectly.

Economic benefits

While the relationship between income and well-being is not linear, there are nevertheless clear connections between the two. Having a comparatively low income is often associated with low levels of life satisfaction, as well as, with higher rates of mental illness. A World Bank review of research on active labour market programmes concluded that training has little impact on the life chances of young unemployed people but generally raises employability levels among the adult unemployed, and this is broadly consistent with the experience of the new deal. Relative income inequalities tend to cause dissatisfaction and reduce well-being. Income improvements lead to high gains in well-being among the poorest; among the affluent, additional income has marginal consequences. On balance, then, improving income leads to relatively small gains in well-being for all but the poor, while improving employability is associated with a significant gain both in well-being and in resilience. The benefits that people derive from the economic outcomes of learning should not be overstated, then, and nor should they be generalised. They are significant mainly for those who are most exposed to economic insecurity and poverty, and this suggests that public support, especially for vocationally oriented learning, should be concentrated primarily on these groups.

Learning and personal well-being

Learning can create wider and non-economic benefits that can directly influence well-being, since they act as protective influences against poor mental health and low levels of life satisfaction. Examples include self-efficacy, autonomy, social competences, health maintenance, civic engagement, community resilience and a sense of agency or control over one’s own life. In one study, four-fifths of learners aged 51–70 years old, reported a positive impact on such areas as confidence, life satisfaction or their capacity to cope. Learning providers have been encouraged to improve services to people with mental health difficulties. A survey of over 600 literacy and numeracy learners in Scotland over time showed significant increases among females and older people in the proportion going out regularly; greater clarity about future intentions on community involvement; and a rise in the number who could identify someone they could turn to for help.

Learning and health

Feinstein and Hammond used the 1958 cohort survey to compare changes in the health behaviours of learners and non-learners between the ages of 33 and 42, showing that participation in learning had positive effects in terms of smoking cessation and exercise taken. The same authors also found a growth in self-rated health among those who participated in learning as compared with adults who did not. The most consistent finding in qualitative research and practitioner narratives is that adult learning produces gains in confidence. A detailed qualitative investigation of adult literacy, numeracy and host language education in England found that participants identified both social confidence and personal confidence among the most highly valued outcomes of courses.

The Influence of Education on Happiness

[20] If ‘happiness’ is understood in the robust eudaemonist (based on the Greek word EUDAIMONIA, which literally means something like ‘favoured by the DAIMONES, that is near-gods or gods. It is usually translated as ‘happiness’) sense of overall human wellbeing, then education evidently has an enormous impact. Some evidence that were found on the influence of education on many important aspects of people’s lives are given below:

  • “...the well-being of modern society is dependent not only on traditional capital and labour but also on the knowledge and ideas possessed and generated by individual workers. Education is the primary source of this human capital” (p.1, from Crocker, 2002).
  • “Educational attainment is positively associated both with health status and with healthy lifestyles. For example, in the 1996-97 [Canadian] National Population Health Survey, only 19% of respondents with less than high school education rated their health as ‘excellent’, compared with almost 30% of university graduates. Self-rated health, in turn, has been shown to be a reliable predictor of health problems, health-care utilization, and longevity. From a health determinant perspective, education is clearly a good investment that can reduce long-term health care costs” (pp.37-38).
  • “According to Statistics Canada, workers with higher education were more likely to have secure, high-wage, high-benefit jobs. Employees with less than high school education were more likely to have insecure work, low wages and no benefits. . .poverty and inequality are acknowledged to be the most reliable predictors of poor health outcomes, and they are also closely linked to low educational attainment and unhealthy lifestyles”
  • “Using panel data analysis for 35 developing countries for the years 1990, 1995 and 2000. ..[it was shown] that the set of functionings enabled by educational attainment – being able to read, count, communicate, make informed choices, have a sense of self worth, have greater degree of control over one’s life and so on – have a substantial impact on life expectancy. Significantly, the direct effect of those educational functionings on longevity is almost equivalent to their effect by way of resource accumulation” (Wigley and Akkoyunlu-Wigley, 2006, pp.287-301).

See also


  6. 2011/sitefiles/Conference%20Overview%20Note.pdf