Section two (pp 2 to 4) explores the various definitions used for
'wellbeing', noting the domains of life it covers and the subjective and
objective aspects to it. Wellbeing embodies the idea of life satisfaction, and
positive and negative emotions, in addition to the more objective components of
capabilities and fair allocations.
A timeline of some of the milestones in the history of measuring wellbeing
is included in section three (pp 5 to 6). The timeline reveals the
acceleration of interest in this area in recent years, particularly at a global
Some historical context is provided in section four (pp 7 to 13) to
help explain the current level of interest in the topic. Whilst GDP is widely
acknowledged as a valuable indicator, its limitations are explored as is the
context in which it was developed. Reference is also made to some of the
research into the links or lack thereof between happiness and GDP per capita.
The warnings by some commentators about the way in which wellbeing data may be
misused are noted.
Section five (pp 14 to 18) explores the ways in which wellbeing may
be measured. There are five main approaches including: correct GDP; measure
subjective wellbeing; composite indices; user-weighted indices; and a dashboard
approach. Some of the factors to consider to ensure a certain quality of data
is maintained are noted.
The debate over whether public policy should in fact be concerned with
maximising the happiness of individuals is discussed in section six (pp
119 to 21). The advantages thought to accrue from enhancing societal wellbeing
are highlighted, and these include benefits to individuals as well as to
society as a whole.
Section seven (pp 22 to 30) examines some of the developments in
measuring wellbeing in Australia, at a national, state and local level.
Australia has been a forerunner in the field and the work of a number of
Australian organisations has been recognised internationally.
Numerous international bodies have developed wellbeing indicator systems and
some of these are discussed in section eight (pp 30 to 37). Selected
initiatives in Canada, France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United
States of America are considered.