Positive wellbeing can protect against mental health problems

Release Date: 24 July 2012

Source: Mental Health Foundation

Country: United Kingdom

Simon Lawton Smith, Head of Policy at the Mental Health Foundation responds to the ONS update on the Measuring National Well-being programme:

“We welcome the next stage to measuring the nation’s wellbeing.

For too long, economic benchmarks such as GDP and limited health measures such as life-expectancy have been used to assess quality of life in the UK, ignoring the fact that being richer or living longer are often poor indicators of personal happiness and wellbeing.

These new measures are key as positive wellbeing influences a range of outcomes for individuals and communities and can protect against mental health problems.  Used effectively, the data will help assess the impact at community level of national and local policies relating to public health, mental health, housing, employment, the economy, arts, education and the environment – all of which contribute to people's quality of life and wellbeing.

It is disappointing that some commentators have chosen to portray the exercise as a pointless, gimmicky “happiness survey”. Wellbeing and happiness are not the same thing, although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. This project is about building a sense of long-term wellbeing in individuals and communities. Wellbeing drives up productivity and therefore GDP and reduces the burden of poor mental health which currently costs the UK over £100 billion. “