New efforts to measure the nation’s overall wellbeing will lead to more investment in health services, including mental health, the government’s “happiness tsar” has predicted.
Lord Richard Layard hailed the publication of the UK’s first national wellbeing report this week as a “move in the right direction”.
He told HSJ that the report, published by the Office for National Statistics, “helps to highlight some of the main factors that influence wellbeing - in particular health, disability and mental health”.
“This whole notion of life satisfaction and the use of wider measures of subjective wellbeing will help strengthen the case of people who want to see more resources devoted to health,” he added.
The Measuring National Well-being report is designed to provide an alternative measure of national performance to gross domestic product.
Lord Layard, who is programme director for wellbeing at the at the centre for economic performance at the London School of Economics, said a key finding was the fact unhappiness and anxiety cut across factors such occupation, ethnic background and where people lived.
“One of the key things this tells us is that we need a much wider concept of deprivation beyond economic deprivation,” he said.
“If we want to tackle deprivation then we need to invest in services that really will improve people’s lives such as mental and physical health.”
He flagged up a report published by the Centre for Economic Performance’s mental health policy group last month, highlighting a “massive unmet need” in mental health and a lack of investment in services
The How Mental Illness Loses Out in the NHS study also stressed the strong links between mental and physical health.
Lord Layard said there were encouraging signs that the new wellbeing data – and more detailed analysis over time – would help shape policy and government spending.
“We know there are things going on in government to try to use wellbeing more explicitly as an outcome measure,” he said.
“It’s not going to happen overnight but we have already seen some benefits such as increasing access to psychological therapies.”
The wellbeing report, which saw thousands of people aged over 16 rate their “life satisfaction”, was also welcomed by organisations including the Mental Health Foundation, which said the data would help assess the impact of national and local health policies.