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How to boost well-being - and prove it

September 3, 2013 // By: Saamah Abdallah


Today, the Big Lottery Fund has published the final results from their Well-Being Programme evaluation which we, alongside colleagues at the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES), have been carrying out on their behalf since 2006.

The final report is available online, as well as an online summary and rather cute animation. The headline findings:

  • Proportions of people eating five portions of fruit and vegetables daily increased from 48% at the beginning of the project to 57% at the end. Proportions of primary school children saying they helped their parents with cooking almost doubled from 12% to 24%.
  • Proportions of people having high levels of physical activity rose from 23% to 32%. This increase went further at follow-up, three to six months after the end of the project.
  • Proportions of people reporting substantial depressive symptoms fell from 33% to 22%.
  • Average life satisfaction (on a scale of 0-10) rose from 6.5 at the start, to 7.1 at the end of projects. This coincided with significant increases in people feeling good about themselves, relaxed, close to other people, and all other aspects of personal well-being measured.
  • The different aspects were all interlinked. Most striking was that projects which involved physical activity lead to big improvements in terms of mental health and healthy eating.
  • Keys to successful projects included having a holistic approach, engaging the target group from the start and incorporating co-production, integrating activities into daily life, and ensuring that they are fun and involve social interaction.

For us, the findings are exciting news. They a) show that people’s experienced well-being can be improved and that these improvements can be sustained (something which some theorists have doubted), b) show that well-being can be used to evaluate a wide range of projects from cookery courses, to therapy sessions, and c) begin to provide evidence on the kinds of activities which work best, and about the inter-linkages between different aspects of people’s behaviour and well-being.

The Well-Being Programme was a £160 million programme funding a broad range of community projects improving mental health and increasing healthy eating and physical activity, delivered by partnerships lead by organisations such as the Soil Association, MIND, Sustrans and the Greater London Authority.

The evaluation involved the administration of a questionnaire for project beneficiaries which they completed when they started being involved in a project, when they finished, and (where possible), three to six months after they left a project. Our colleagues at CLES also carried out extensive qualitative research, including focus groups and interviews with beneficiaries and project staff. 

The Well-Being Programme recently received a boost of another £40 million, so some of the projects funded are set to continue. We look forward to seeing further increases in well-being as a result. The findings have also attracted particular attention from the Cabinet Office, who will be looking to see what lessons can be learnt from the evaluation to help realise the Prime Minister’s stated goal of focusing policy on improving well-being.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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