To accompany the launch of the new Scottish Wellbeing Index, we are delighted to share the following guest blog from Carnegie UK Trust

When all of us are well…

Our personal and collective wellbeing matters. It matters to us, our families and communities and to the governments who serve us.  At Carnegie UK we’re all about wellbeing – we have been for over 100 years. 

Even before the pandemic, wellbeing was starting to gain traction as an important set of ideas and public policy approaches. We believe that COVID-19 has given greater impetus and urgency to this and that the recovery needs advocates for collective wellbeing more than ever before.

Collective wellbeing requires social, economic, environmental and democratic wellbeing outcomes to be seen as equally important and given equal weight. There is a growing body of research and evidence which demonstrates that improving collective wellbeing is an effective route to a good and sustainable quality of life for everyone. 

Understanding Scotland now gives us a new source of data, which sheds light on personal wellbeing and helps us understand better how different people in our society are faring (a component of our collective wellbeing). 

Using the Cantril Scale, the data reveals a stark picture of personal wellbeing in Scotland. How you fare, depends on who you are. The Cantril Scale asks people to imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. It then asks two questions:

  • On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time? 
  • On which step do you think you will stand about five years from now? 

This allows us to assess people’s current life satisfaction and to identify whether they are hopeful about the future or not. 

There are three core findings for collective wellbeing in this new data.

Firstly, there are significant inequalities in personal wellbeing (current and anticipated) between those classed as ABC1 and those classed as C2DE. Didn’t we already know this? Well yes, to an extent, but the most commonly used ONS question on ‘life satisfaction’ often creates paradoxical results – why is Northern Ireland the most ‘satisfied’ region in the UK but also the one with the highest rate of suicide? And why, in their own regression analysis on what contributes to life satisfaction, did the ONS not identify poverty as a significant factor? The more nuanced question asked in Understanding Scotland helps explore this in more detail. 

Secondly – and perhaps a finding that goes some way to explaining this paradox – there is a strong connection between our personal wellbeing and our collective wellbeing.  Living in an area of multiple deprivation affects your personal wellbeing,with the findings released today showing: 

  • Significant inequalities in personal wellbeing (current and future) can be seen from the most and least deprived neighbourhoods in Scotland. There is a clear linear relationship throughout, so the more deprived your neighbourhood, the less satisfied and hopeful you are likely to be.
  • Related to this, there is a regional split with Glasgow, West of Scotland and Central Scotland experiencing lower personal wellbeing (current and anticipated) than other regions.  

Thirdly, that hope for the future is similarly correlated with social demographics. For those in social groups C2DE, their ‘hopefulness’ doesn’t even reach the actual level of present wellbeing experienced by those in social groups ABC2. That half of the Scottish population can’t even conceive of being as satisfied with their lives as most of the people reading this are already, should be a source of national shame. 

And so overall, reviewing this data, we are reminded of a phrase that we have used in our work to describe what we mean by collective wellbeing, that none of us is well until all of us are well. It is vital that this more nuanced, and regular data, spurs decision-makers in Scotland to focus their minds on making this aspiration a reality. 

Guest blog written by Rachel Heydecker, Hannah Ormston & Jennifer Wallace of Carnegie UK

19 November 2021