Jobs key to mental health and wellbeing, landmark UK study finds

Employment itself is the biggest factor in a person's wellbeing as opposed to how much they are paid, a study has found.

That was one of several conclusions in a report by the Office for National Statistics, which for the first time has generated a complete snapshot of life in Britain in terms of life satisfaction.

Income is significant but it is just one of several significant factors in a person's wellbeing, said Lord Richard Layard from the London School of Economics, who spoke at the report's launch.

Researchers identified jobs as a key factor in a person's wellbeing after assessing 40 indicators, such as relationships, levels of anxiety, and hobbies, alongside traditional economic, social and environmental data.

The Office for National Statistics identified financial difficulties in one in eight people, but nevertheless found that the majority of the population has enjoyed a stable quality of life over the last decade.

Mental health problems were revealed to be an important ongoing issue across all sections of society and it pinpointed a child's emotional support and development as key to finding contentment and success as an adult.

Lord Gus O'Donnell, the former Cabinet Secretary who is chairing the Government's Wellbeing Commission, expressed certainty that the information gathered will transform the way governments make policies, not just in the UK but around the world.

"We need to come up with some guidance on how to turn these ideas into practical policy conclusions," he added.

David Halpern, of the Cabinet Office, added a note of caution that there is a "long road" ahead but agreed the annual research project could have a "significant impact".

In particular he suggested the project could tie in with calls for the National Citizen Service to be expanded - a move that would cost the Government millions of pounds but which the report suggests could have a long-term impact on people's wellbeing.

The Measuring National Wellbeing programme was launched by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, in November 2010, with the aim of providing the Government with information about public happiness and wellbeing to complement existing research into economic progress.

Copyright Press Association 2012