Addressing the social determinants of subjective wellbeing: the latest challenge for social policy?

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    The idea that the happiness and wellbeing of individuals should shape government policy has been around since the enlightenment; today such thinking has growing practical policy relevance as governments around the world survey their populations in an effort to design social policies that promote wellbeing. In this article, we consider the social determinants of subjective wellbeing in the UK and draw lessons for social policy. Survey data are taken from the ‘Measuring National Wellbeing Programme’ launched by the UK's Office for National Statistics in 2010. For the empirical strategy, we develop bivariate and multivariate logistic regression models, as well as testing for interaction effects in the data. The findings show that wellbeing is not evenly distributed within the UK. Socio-demographic characteristics such as age, gender, ethnicity, employment, household composition and tenure all matter, as does health status. Influencing population wellbeing is inherently complex, though, that said, there is a clear need to place greater emphasis on the social, given the direction of current policy.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)541-565
    Number of pages25
    JournalJournal of Social Policy
    Issue number3
    Early online date8 Apr 2013
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2013


    • welfare
    • wellbeing
    • social policy
    • inequality


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