Wellbeing in policy in the UK

Poster with statistics on about wellbeing
Life in the UK 2014 – from ONS

Following on from my previous post about yoga and ayurveda in India’s government, I came across the ‘Wellbeing in four policy areas’ report in the UK which has been produced by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Wellbeing Economics. (Yup, I didn’t know about that group either!)

In the report there are eight recommendations for government, local authorities and political parties, as well as recommendations in four main areas, one of which is directly related to yoga (mindfulness), and others which are just good things to do anyway:

  • “Focus on stable jobs over growth: More than half the UK workforce are worried about losing their jobs, with disastrous consequences for their wellbeing and productivity – sickness leave alone costs an estimated £100bn a year. Secure, stable employment should be the primary focus of economic policy.
  • More green spaces in our cities: Planning processes have lost sight of their original mission to improve community wellbeing. Restoring this would transform local areas, with considerable economic benefits – city liveability is a major consideration for big employers, while encouraging residents to take up walking or cycling could save the NHS £675m a year.
  • Mindfulness training for doctors and teachers: Mental health problems cost the UK economy an estimated £70bn annually. Training new medical and teaching staff in mindfulness techniques would embed a culture of wellbeing in health and education, and reduce a later burden on the NHS by improving the availability of mindfulness-based therapies.
  • Invest in arts and culture: Wellbeing evidence gives a robust means of measuring the value of non-market goods. Arts and culture play an important part in all our lives, and wellbeing data will help make the case for spending in these areas.”

You can download a copy of the report if you follow the link on their blog post. Chapter 5 is all about mindfulness and the things they are recommending. They note:

“There is strong evidence linking mindfulness with a range of benefits including better concentration, greater calmness and reduced emotional reactivity, reduced stress and improved immune functioning, and better overall wellbeing and life satisfaction. Mindfulness has been shown to improve physical as well as mental health: for example, by reducing blood pressure and helping people to manage long-term conditions including chronic pain, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.”

“It [mindfulness therapy] is cheap, effective, and drug-free, and yet, despite being identified by NICE as a priority for implementation, it is still not widely available on the NHS.”

The recommendation to train school teachers in mindfulness and teach it to children is interesting as the local yoga group Yoga i Bawb have done that with yoga as a whole, with local schools who were interested.

You can find out more about the Parliamentary group on their website. Their role is to:

  • “Provide a forum for discussion of wellbeing issues and public policy in Parliament;
  • Promote enhancement of wellbeing as an important government goal;
  • Encourage the adoption of wellbeing indicators as complimentary measures of progress to GDP;
  • Promote policies designed to enhance wellbeing.”

Now we just need governments to take note and act on these things.

You can read more about measuring wellbeing in the UK on the Office for National Statistics website (where they call it well-being). Well-being questions have started to be added to surveys in the UK since about 2011.

6 thoughts on “Wellbeing in policy in the UK

  1. The planning bit resonates with me. Currently it seems to be predicated on filling every green space with houses and supermarkets. We need to preserve and expand green spaces, not destroy them. Thanks for the links.


    1. Yes, green spaces are good not just for wildlife and planning nicer spaces, but also I’ve read research which shows that people who can see green things (trees etc) from a window have a better outlook on life and are able to remain more positive than just seeing grey concrete everywhere. So that connects back to mindfulness too.


  2. My daughter recently visited her doctor in Shrewsbury about stress related symptoms. I was very impressed that she was not offered medication but given a 5 min. breathing, mindfulness practice. Amusingly when she told the doctor her Mum was a yoga teacher she commented that we must be very different temperaments. So hopefully it is being implemented nationally.


    1. That’s really good, and I hope it’s beneficial for her. I think part of the trick is finding what works for an individual as there’s so many different approaches. There’s also the Books Prescription Wales scheme which is where Drs prescribe a book (for mild and moderate mental health issues) and the local library issues it to the person.


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