WHO/EURO initiative on measurement and target setting for well-being


The World Health Organization's European Region (WHO/EURO) has convened a group of experts to help take forward measurement of well-being and its links to health. I took part in the first meeting of this group on 8-9 February in Copenhagen, acting as rapporteur.  This was a fascinating discussion; it is clear that there are strong links between health and well-being and also that these go in both directions - good health influences overall well-being, but poor well-being can also help to predict poor health in the future.

How to measure and set targets for well-being, though, is much less straightforward.  Some outstanding work has been undertaken already, though, on which we can build.  For example, the OECD's Better Life Initiative provides an excellent example of not just how to measure well-being at an international level, but also how to engage citizens with their 'Your Better Life Index'.  And Professor Bob Cummins and his colleagues have drawn some striking results from their 'Australian Unity Wellbeing Index' surveys, allowing them to identify those groups with low subjective well-being and the factors shaping it, such as informal carers.  From a psychological perspective, their model of subjective well-being is insightful, seeing subjective well-being as an essentially homeostatic concept like body temperature, which like body temperature can be used to diagnose serious distress when it deteriorates substantially from its normal level. These were exciting discussions to be involved with, and if they lead to improving measurement of health, well-being and the links between them, they will be significant ones, too.


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