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NEWS25 February 2011

Wellbeing questions to feature in Integrated Household Survey

Government UK

UK— A new batch of questions asking people to rate their own wellbeing will be included in the Integrated Household Survey (IHS) from April, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has decided.

The IHS interviews 200,000 people annually, meaning it will be the largest regular survey asking questions on subjective wellbeing in the UK.

ONS spokesman Stephen Hicks said initial results of the questions will be regarded as experimental, acknowledging that there are many different ways to measure people’s life satisfaction.

“There is more work to be done to check that the questions work and that they meet public policy and other needs, including international developments,” said Hicks.

Prime Minister David Cameron (pictured) is keen for the ONS to pursue a new way of assessing society’s progress beyond economic indicators like GDP.

The questions that will be put to IHS respondents are:

  • 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?

ONS says these questions will be supplemented with the Opinions Survey, a smaller survey of around 1,000 adults each month, which will be used for further testing and for questions about different aspects of wellbeing.

Meanwhile, the ONS says its national wellbeing debate continues both online and offline at events across the country.

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1 Comment

9 years ago

I would imagine that there is a large body of academic work behind these questions and normative databases for comparison purposes but they fail some of the basic tests of good question design do they not? [Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?] Biased towards the positive. Asking "How satisfied or dissatisfied..." would probably generate a result 10 points lower for the sample as a whole. [Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?] Isn't it good practice to ask "how happy are you feeling today?",(or "right now"), ie immediate snapshot, no memory effect, etc. Of course, the interview can have an effect but isn't this outweighed by the difficulties of asking in effect about 'average degree of happiness' over a 24 hour period v a point-in-time snapshot? [Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?] Anxiety tends to be episodic, so should ithe question be around what they experienced yesterday. In a single question, it is possible to ask people if they experienced moments of joy, a sense of achievement, anxiety, depresssion... [Overall, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?] Weren't we taught in Research 101 to avoid generalities and words like 'things' in questions? I know that these surveys struggle because there is such limited room so they end up asking one question when they really need 10 but this seems so general as to not be meaningful. I look forward to reading more about the rationale, the evidence base behind the questions, the difficult decisions taken on what to include/not include, and - of course - the results. My former colleague, Andrea Nove, has done her PhD in measuring happiness so I'll consult her.

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