Well-being During Recession in the UK

David Bayliss, Wendy Olsen, Pierre Walthery

Research output: Working paper


It has been claimed that the well-being of people in the UK remained stable during the current economic crisis. Such claims are perhaps counterintuitive given the severity of the recession. The narrative of well-being that accompanies such major events is important at a time when governments are taking non-GDP measures of well-being more seriously than before. Claims that this recession has not significantly altered people’s well-being could be taken to suggest that such economic crises are not of concern from a human welfare perspective. Here we critique the conceptualisation and operationalisation of well-being as synonymous with subjective well-being (SWB). Taking a realist perspective to study change over time in well-being, we argue that a multidimensional understanding of well-beingprovides a valid approach for evaluating the impact of the economic crisis. To test this claim the simple evaluative measure of SWB as life satisfaction is compared to a more objective measure of well-being. Six years of panel data for the UK working-age population are used to estimate change in individual well-being from the pre-recession ‘boom’ into the recessionary ‘bust’. Results confirm a decline in the more objective dimension of well-being.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationManchester
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Publication series

NameCMIST Working Papers
PublisherCathie Marsh Institute for Social Research


  • well-being, life satisfaction, recession, multidimensional indicator, latent factor analysis, structural equation model, UK


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