Knowledge for better food systems

Well-being and Policy report

This report describes what the policy world would look like if we genuinely prioritised increasing subjective wellbeing – life satisfaction, happiness and living a life that feels worthwhile. 

The report was commissioned by the pro ‘liberty and responsibility’ think tank Legatum Institute and written by, among others, former UK Cabinet Secretary, Gus O’Donnell. It includes a ‘how to’ guide to measurement and it urges a shift in policy focus towards: mental health; parenting skills; character and resilience building in schools; encouraging volunteering, giving and kindness. It says we should focus on limiting loneliness, creating physical environments that facilitate sociability and contact with nature; promoting active welfare and wellbeing at work; public services and governance that promote respect and empowerment; and giving the public better access to wellbeing data to better inform life choices, and in turn shape markets.

The report highlights specific programs and interventions, many with strongly behavioural roots, that have been shown to increase wellbeing.

 Prologue                                                                                                                                                             “The Legatum Institute established the Commission on Wellbeing and Policy to advance the policy debate on social wellbeing. This report aims to give policy makers a greater understanding of how wellbeing data can be used to improve public policy and advance prosperity. The Legatum Institute is founded upon the principle that prosperity is a more capacious idea than can be expressed by a purely material measure such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Consequently the Institute’s own Prosperity Index is based on both wealth and wellbeing. The Legatum Institute has sponsored the Commission on Wellbeing and Policy in order to help stimulate a debate as to if and how wellbeing analysis should influence government policy. The Commission operated independently of the Legatum Institute and its views do not necessarily reflect those of the  Institute.”


O'Donnell G., Deaton A., Durand M., Halpern D., Layard R., 2014, Wellbeing and Policy, Legatume 

Read the full report here.

You can also read a speech from the current UK prime minister on wellbeing here. You can read more on this on the blog of the Behavioural insights team of the Cabinet Office, here.

See further resources on wellbeing on our website here– in particular see the work of Tim Jackson here. You can also use the word 'happiness' in the search box on the website.

You can read related research by browsing the following categories of our research library:

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While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.

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