Center for Markets in Transition CEMAT

NDI Policy Brief 13: Analysis of subjective wellbeing is important for wellbeing development in the Northern Dimension area

Actors in the social and health care often aim to improve the wellbeing of the population in various interventions and development projects. The evaluation of their outcome is usually based on objective wellbeing criteria only, although people’s subjective wellbeing (SWB) is the foundation of the wellbeing of the population.
Aalto University Learning Center photo by Tuomas Uusheimo

Therefore, the viewpoint of families and experiences of individual people should always be essential and deeply considered whenever wellbeing is evaluated. This is feasible, as subjective wellbeing can be directly measured by qualitative interviews and questionnaires, and many large international research programs have studied subjective wellbeing.

This policy brief is based on a current study on the subjective wellbeing of Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles and Russians, which was investigated on European Social Survey data from 2006 to 2016 with 48 000 interviewed respondents.

The results show that subjective wellbeing was improving slowly during the period of investigation, and that there were several factors connected to subjective wellbeing. The most important ones include health, income, trust, religiosity and not being unemployed.

The results allow making the following recommendations for actors in the health and social care, and for the work under the Northern Dimension Partnership in Public Health and Social Wellbeing.

  • Recommendation 1. Subjective wellbeing should be acknowledged in all development projects, decisions, interventions and studies addressing health and wellbeing. Health is an important part of SWB, but not the only one.
  • Recommendation 2. Data from large-scale international studies can be helpful in the evaluation and interpretation of final outcomes of wellbeing development projects. If the outcome is not easy to assess, SWB measured in existing studies would help to detect the change in wellbeing.
  • Recommendation 3. Cross-sectoral co-operation and information exchange are beneficial for the assessment of wellbeing outcome of development projects and for research.

Download the NDI Policy Brief 13: Analysis of subjective wellbeing is important for wellbeing development in the Northern Dimension area

Author: Paula Vainiomäki, PhD (Medicine), MSc (Social Politics), University of Turku, Northern Dimension Partnership on Health and Wellbeing 

This policy brief was written as a part of the NDI Policy Brief Training held in October 2020.

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