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Research Programmes | Wellbeing:

Report on Wellbeing and Public Policy


An independent commission chaired by Gus O'Donnell proposes a radical reform of public policy-making, targeted at wellbeing, or life satisfaction, not simply economic growth.

Its report, Wellbeing and Policy, commissioned by the Legatum Institute, concludes that GDP is too narrow a measure of prosperity. Instead, policy should aim at increasing people's satisfaction with their lives, using measures of wellbeing as an indicator of success. The report explains how to define and measure wellbeing, and demonstrates how it can be used to measure the success of different policies and different countries.

Richard Layard was a member of the Commission, along with Angus Deaton, Martine Durand and David Halpern.


“This masterful report highlights an inspiring set of domains in which measures of wellbeing should be used to guide policies that are both humane and effective.”

Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Laureate in Economics; Author of Thinking, Fast and Slow; Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University

“The global financial and economic crisis had a dramatic impact on millions of people across the world. As the global economy recovers, it is crucial to remember that a better future depends not only on GDP growth but also on the quality of people’s lives which cannot only be measured by the growth of GDP. As rigorous as it is relevant, I found that this fascinating analysis provides important insights for policymakers as they seek not only to promote solid, sustainable and balanced growth but also ultimately, the improvement of human wellbeing.”

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund (IMF)

“Today, in the aftermath of the worst economic and financial crisis of our lifetime, a ‘growth as usual approach’ is simply not enough. By focusing on new measures of wellbeing and their usefulness for policy making, this report shows us the way ahead to improve people’s lives today and tomorrow.”

Angel Gurría, Secretary-General, The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

“In a world that was a vale of tears, public policy was rightly centred on the relief of misery. As education and abundance increase and suffering decreases, a new definition of prosperity is called for: one in which wellbeing stands shoulder to shoulder with relief of misery as the twin aims of public policy. This ground-breaking report points the way to the new prosperity.”

Martin Seligman, Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology and Director of the Positive Psychology Center, University of Pennsylvania

"Public policy should, in large measure, be about the potential of people to prosper in terms of their ability to live the kind of life they value. In other words, it should seek to foster their wellbeing. This fine and important report provides a very valuable examination of the key issues around wellbeing and should be read by all those who think seriously about understanding the objectives of public policy."

Nicholas Stern, Lord Stern of Brentford, I. G. Patel Professor of Economics and Government at LSE and President of the British Academy

Published 20 March 2014