Loneliness and mistrust in government on the rise

A new report has highlighted an increase in loneliness and a worrying decline in trust in government, prompting calls for an urgent rethink on the overemphasis on economic data to measure the post-pandemic recovery.

Carnegie UK has proposed a new measure of national progress – Gross Domestic Wellbeing, or GDWe – to measure whether life is getting better or worse. The latest Gross Domestic Wellbeing (GDWe) report from Carnegie UK is based on ONS data and found a drop in collective wellbeing in England had started even before the pandemic began.

Findings include: the latest GDWe score was 6.79 out of 10 for 2019/20, compared to 6.89 for 2018/19, its lowest level since 2015/16; well-being is falling in multiple measured areas including relationships and governance; the number of adults in England feeling lonely has been increasing since 2017 and in the last year jumped by 44 per cent (or 1.1 million people) – an increase from 2.6 million to 3.7 million from October 2020 to February 2021; and that trust in government is at an-all time low following a nearly 40 per cent drop from 2018/19 to 2019/20 (from 31 per cent to 19 per cent).

Carnegie UK, in collaboration with Diffley Partnership, has developed a score for collective wellbeing in England by bringing together a range of data to create a single figure. This can be tracked over time to tell whether well-being is going up or down.

Sarah Davidson, CEO of Carnegie UK, said: “Historically, each time we emerge from any kind of crisis, the government’s focus is on driving the economic recovery. These latest figures on England’s wellbeing show we need to focus as much on the human recovery as on the economic one.

“Covid-19 has sparked new conversations and renewed existing ones about what exactly social progress is. We now have an opportunity to rethink how progress as a country captures the complexity of people’s lives and their well-being. GDWe offers an alternative, more human-focussed measure of a country’s progress and we urge policy makers to consider this on the road to recovery.”

Caroline Lucas MP said: “The worrying decline in collective wellbeing is a sign that current government priorities just aren’t delivering for most people.  Official measures of success like GDP growth don’t translate into people feeling better about their lives. Using Gross Domestic Wellbeing (GDWe) instead of GDP growth as the guiding star for economic policy making would be a major step towards measuring what matters most to people and would ensure we build back fairer and greener from the pandemic.” 

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