The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published the list of the ‘domains and measures’ that will be used from now on to create an “objective” assessment of the wellbeing of the nation – but no measures specific to arts have been included. Earlier this year a campaign by the sector to have ‘engagement with cultural activity’ formally recognised as contributing to personal wellbeing (See AP246 and AP247) had fed into an ONS consultation to determine the most appropriate ways to measure wellbeing, and it was proposed that the DCMS ‘Taking Part’ survey  could be used to provide the statistical evidence needed to feed into the calculations. But the ONS has rejected any such inclusion in favour of a measure that assesses “satisfaction with the use and amount of leisure time… without making a judgement that particular or specific activities are good for wellbeing”.  Having said this, the ONS has retained the ‘percentage undertaking volunteering’ as one of the objective measures.

The announcement has coincided with the publication of the findings from the first annual assessment of subjective wellbeing which gathered people’s assessment of their own wellbeing.  Glenn Everett, Programme Director for Measuring National Well-being Programme said that by examining and analysing both objective statistics and subjective information, “a more complete picture” can be formed of national wellbeing. The figures will be used to complement other official statistics in policy-making decisions.

Hilary Jennings, who campaigned hard to get the arts included in the post-consulation measures, said: “It's good to see that the ONS have added a measurement around satisfaction with the use, as well as simply the amount, of an individual's leisure time. However, there is still a significant gap in terms of the less tangible elements of wellbeing related to creativity, culture and recreation. As Gus O'Donnell said when introducing the Wellbeing measures in 2011, ‘if you treasure it, measure it’.  By their omission, the value of creativity, culture and recreation are diminished.”

The domains are still under development and ONS are still seeking comments on the measures by email via well-being@ons.gsi.gov.uk

Measuring National Well-being: Report on consultation responses on proposed domains and measures, July 2012
http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171766_272242.pdf