A well-being manifesto for a flourishing society

A well-being manifesto from NEF (New Economics Foundation) which seeks to answer the question « what would politics look like if promoting people’s well-being was one of government’s main aims? »

September 2004

To download : PDF (2.8 MiB)

Summary :

One of the key aims of a democratic government is to promote the good life: a flourishing society, where citizens are happy, healthy, capable and engaged - in other words, with high levels of well-being. Well-being is more than just happiness. As well as feeling satisfied and happy, well-being means developing as a person, being fulfilled, and making a contribution to the community. Where does our well-being come from? Research suggests that there are three main influences. Our parents, through our genes and our upbringing, influence about 50 per cent of the variation in happiness between people. Our circumstances, which include our income, as well as other external factors such as the climate and where we live, account for only 10 per cent. Does money make us happier? Not after our basic needs are met, because we are always moving the goalposts. We adapt very quickly to the material gains which come from increases in income and we also compare ourselves to others who have more and this can lead to dissatisfaction. Our outlook and activities - like our friendships, being involved in our community, sport, and hobbies as well as our attitude to life - account for the remaining 40 per cent. This is where we have the most opportunity to make a difference to well-being. What can government do? Policies can’t make us happy or more engaged with life, but they can shape the culture and society in which we live. Many policies tend to focus on enhancing people’s income by growing the economy. This has only a small effect on well-being, however, and may be achieved at the expense of our time with others, the environment in which we live, or the vibrancy of local communities. This well-being manifesto suggests eight areas where government could act to promote well-being: 1. Measure what matters; 2. Create a well-being economy; 3. Reclaim our time through improving our work-life balance; 4. Create an education system to promote flourishing; 5. Refocus the NHS to promote complete health; 6. Invest in early years and parenting; 7. Discourage materialism and promote authentic advertising; 8. Strengthen civil society, social well-being and active citizenship.