DataByte: New Indices, New Questions - Measuring Well Being

People Tree

In SCOPE’s Happiness Matters blog we discussed the recent interests in understanding happiness as an appropriate measure for well-being and how community happiness can translate into personal happiness, and vice versa.

Similar to SCOPE’s upcoming Community Report Card, this think tank collects data around a set of indicators they call National Accounts of Well-Being.NEF (the new economics foundation) is a UK-based think-tank that wears the tagline - economics, as if the people and the planet mattered. Their motivation as a progressive donation-based organization is to work toward a transition in the economy to make it socially and environmentally sustainable. This think-tank provides interesting insight into measuring well-being and happiness and provides a beautiful, interactive tool to engage with the data.

One way in which NEF pursues change is by conducting extensive research and creating new indices that determine the well-being of both people and planet. But how do we define personal or social well-being?

According to NEF:
“Well-being is most usefully thought of as the dynamic process that gives people a sense of how their lives are going, through the interaction between their circumstances, activities and psychological resources or ‘mental capital”

NEF’s innovative approach to well-being moves away from a philosophical debate on semantics and into a social sciences field to measure personal and social well-being.

Their definition page cites some of the key aspects of personal well-being: vitality and optimism, participating in meaningful activities and active engagement that makes one feel competent and autonomous, and an internal ability to handle and respond to changes that occur beyond our control. These aspects of well-being are amplified by closeness to others and relatedness to a social community.

Click on this link and explore the map that shows the overall well-being of the nations in which NEF works. Feel free to adjust the filters and work your way through the different indicators. And if you’re up for it, you have a chance to create your own profile by answering the fifty questions that were used to create these indicators.

As we are in the process of updating the SCOPE Community Report Card, wouldn’t it be interesting and useful to include a measure of happiness/personal well-being of the residents that reside in Sarasota County? In what ways do you see Sarasota County communities benefiting from this kind of personal measure?

Like other data, a way in which a happiness measure can be useful is in the curiosity that it inspires to uncover reasons behind the trends we see in the numbers. That, in turn, motives action to make changes to build the better, happier, community we aspire to.

If you are interested in these measures of social and environmental well-being, check out one of NEF’s other projects: The Happy Planet Index This compares our own personal well-being in relation to the demand we put on the planet’s resources.