Posted: 19 December 2016

Pathways to wellbeing

What makes a life well lived?

How can we make policies and decisions so that people are satisfied, happier and more fulfilled - especially those who have some of the worst experiences.

This is what the What Works Centre for Wellbeing is answering - ultimately aiming to improve the wellbeing of individuals and communities throughout the UK. We gather, analyse and share evidence of what is most important for wellbeing - assessed by people themselves - and what Governments, communities, businesses and individuals can do to improve it.

It turns out that we already know a lot

We’ve trawled through published literature and evaluations from organisations and have recently published a review of the evidence showing how music and singing can improve wellbeing and reduce anxiety, for healthy adults and those with chronic conditions. We’re shortly due to publish a review of what the evidence tells us of the links between wellbeing and housing, work, learning, sport, dance and wider community conditions.

Over the next year, we will be publishing guides of how to measure and assess wellbeing, so those making a difference can demonstrate their impact and build on the evidence.

Wellbeing through the lifecourse

The event making a splash last week was our joint conference with the LSE and OECD, looking at the evidence of what influences wellbeing, starting from early years through to retirement and later life.

Nobody can argue about the importance of childhood wellbeing - daily experiences, feelings, anxieties, fears, joys, moments of calm. Indeed, the excellent work of The Children’s Society has put this into the spotlight, helping us understand what makes a good childhood.

Taking this further, our conference and the forthcoming book, 'The Origins of Happiness' highlights that childhood emotional wellbeing is also important for its lasting impact throughout the lifetime. Adult wellbeing is influenced by current factors - the most important including health (physical and mental), unemployment and relationships. But it is also influenced by childhood factors - the most important including emotional wellbeing, in turn influenced by parental mental health and relationships.

So what does this mean?

The biggest call for action is to take this evidence seriously. We need to measure what matters for people and make sure that policies and decisions are designed to actively improve what is most important for people and communities - especially for those who are vulnerable and isolated.

But it also shows the importance of thinking across the life course. Our centre was set up to focus on adult wellbeing, to fill a gap in the evidence of ‘what works’. We are all too aware of how changes in parents’ lived experiences impact their children, which in turn influences their later lives, families and communities. To this end, we have recently co-located with The Children’s Society, to understand and share learnings.

And now over to you

What does wellbeing - and measuring wellbeing - mean for you, from your area of practice? How can we link in with your evidence of ‘what works?' How can we really understand wellbeing across the lifecourse and make sure that policies reflect this? We’d appreciate your views, insights and reactions...


find out more about the what works wellbeing centre


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