Breaking down the barriers to flourishing wellbeing
While GDP can measure economic output, how can a measurement be put on education or health?
There is increasing international interest in and analysis of human wellbeing and the economic, social, environmental and psychological factors that contribute to it. Current thinking suggests that to measure social progress and national wellbeing, we need something more than gross domestic product.
Dr Michael Hogan from the school of psychology at NUI Galway explains: “Facilitating the transfer and exchange of knowledge to bring about more wellbeing for everyone is a major goal of science. However, the relationship between science and public policy is complex and there is a need to create new spaces where dialogue is fostered and where knowledge is translated into action.”
He welcomes the news that the Central Statistics Office is piloting a wellbeing module for inclusion in their Quarterly National Household Survey in 2013, similar to countries such as the UK, France and Canada.
Helen Johnston, author of the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) report Why Wellbeing Matters: A Social Report for Ireland, points out that GDP can measure economic output, but does not take adequate account of the value of education, health or the natural environment.
The 2009 NESC report, which is one of the first attempts to chart wellbeing in Ireland, tracks trends across six aspects of people’s lives: their economic resources, their work and participation; their relationships and care; their community and environment; their health and societal values.
“Growing international evidence suggests that all these aspects of a person’s life are important for their wellbeing and that they are interconnected. The emphasis given to each depends on an individual’s particular circumstances, how they compare themselves to others, and by the values set in wider society,” Johnston comments.
Johnston was one of the keynote speakers at the Overcoming Barriers to wellbeing in Ireland conference hosted by the health and wellbeing priority research theme at the Institute for Business, Social Sciences and Public Policy, NUI Galway.
Dr Hogan and his colleague, Dr Ann-Marie Groarke, are co-leaders of a research cluster within this theme which brings together experienced academics from a wide range of disciplines – from medicine and social science to business and law – currently engaged in health and lifespan research.
The wellbeing conference brought together scientists, community organisations and policymakers to discuss the latest advances in wellbeing research and policy.
The event featured an interactive management system design workshop – a collaborative process that allows a group of individuals with a vested interest in solving a problem to work together.
The result of this workshop is a comprehensive list of barriers to wellbeing in Ireland and options for overcoming these barriers. The barriers cover the key areas of policy, psychological/behavioural issues, media, economic, social and cultural issues, leadership, structural issues, understanding /basic research and national climate.
Some of the main barriers to wellbeing identified in Ireland include:
* No national measurement of wellbeing
* Lack of emphasis on wellbeing across government policy
* No charismatic champion or leader to advance the wellbeing of the nation