Well-being in England has declined over the past year as loneliness and mistrust of government have increased, according to analysis of ONS data.
Carnegie UK’s new report precedes Tuesday’s release of the latest ONS GDP figures, which are expected to show the UK economy growing in the second quarter of 2021.
Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP, said the analysis highlighted a “worrying decline in collective well-being” which suggested that government priorities were not working for people.
The decline in well-being began before the pandemic and continued to decline as the country entered its first national lockdown in March 2020, the data shows.
The charity predicts that when it reports on 2020/21 levels later this year, that drop will be even worse. He calls for urgent rethinking of the over-emphasis on economic data to measure post-pandemic recovery.
Sarah Davidson, Managing Director of Carnegie UK, said anyone who has lived the past year and a half will have become “so aware that the things that affect our experience of life go so far beyond the simple things that are captured. by economic data ”.
“A lot of what we’ve been talking about during this pandemic has really reflected the complexity of our lives and the fact that things like our personal relationships, and the extent to which we can influence decisions… and even things like our access to green spaces has an impact, ”she said. “All of these things actually tell you something very important about the quality of our life. “
The association offers a new measure of national progress – gross domestic well-being, or GDWe – to measure whether life is getting better or worse. The latest GDWe score, based on ONS data, was 6.79 out of 10 for 2019/20, down from 6.89 for 2018/19, its lowest level since 2015/16.
“We are not saying that economic factors are not important, because they are, and the model of well-being we are talking about highlights the importance of social, economic, environmental balance. [and] democratic outcomes… In order to properly capture what’s important in people’s lives, you really have to measure all of these things, ”Davidson said.
She added that this data, which shows well-being declines in several measured areas, including relationships and governance, should then be used to influence policy decisions.
The number of adults in England feeling lonely has increased since 2017 and jumped 44% last year, from 2.6 million to 3.7 million. Meanwhile, confidence in the government is at an all-time low after falling almost 40% from 2018/19 to 2019/20 (from 31% to 19%).
The concept of GDWe received the support of 20 multi-party MPs, who signed a motion from the start.
Lucas, one of the MPs who backs the introduction of GDWe, said: “The worrying decline in collective well-being is a sign that the government’s current priorities are just not up to the mark of most people. Official measures of success like GDP growth do not translate into a sense of well-being for the people in their lives.
She added that if we used GDWe instead of GDP growth “as a guiding star” for economic policy making, it would be “a major step towards measuring what matters most to people.”
Carnegie UK has said the delay in releasing official data on England’s welfare needs to be addressed urgently. Currently, there is a 17-month wait for ONS data on well-being to become available, compared to an eight-month delay for economic data.