Improving lives in Scotland : a wellbeing approach

Woods, Charlie and Jarvie, Donald (2015) Improving lives in Scotland : a wellbeing approach. Fraser of Allander Economic Commentary, 39 (2). pp. 137-148. ISSN 2046-5378

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This paper has been developed from a programme of work supported by the Scottish Universities Insight Institute, Scotland’s Futures Forum and partners in 2014, which focused on wellbeing in Scotland. Such an approach takes a balanced look across social, economic and environmental dimensions to understand what influences the wellbeing of citizens and society at large and to assess its progress. The wellbeing of individuals and society is influenced by a wide range of factors that are interrelated and often self-reinforcing. A broad conclusion that can be drawn from a wellbeing perspective is that fairer, more inclusive societies tend to be happier, more prosperous and have better developed social capital and fewer social problems. Scotland is considered to be one of the leading countries in the world in measuring wellbeing, although there are a number of areas where this could be improved. While measurement plays an important role in assessing progress and focussing resources, it must be used carefully and a number of issues need to be taken into account. A wellbeing framework provides an opportunity to actively engage citizens, join up policy and practice and prevent the need for often costly remedial action. Actively engaging, enabling and empowering citizens will not only improve policy and practice and strengthen democracy it will also directly improve wellbeing.