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The Science of Well-Being and its Application to Policy

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Nigel Bennee.

Governments around the world are recognising that economic growth is not a sufficient measure of progress, since it does not indicated how citizens experience their lives. This has led some economists to reconsider the foundational idea that what matters is human happiness. But psychological well-being is more than happiness – it is about lives going well. It is the combination of feeling good and functioning effectively. Sustainable well-being does not require individuals to feel good all the time; the experience of painful emotions (e.g. disappointment, failure, grief) is a normal part of life, and being able to manage these negative or painful emotions is essential for long-term well-being.

This presentation will discuss the broader concept of well-being and why it matters for individuals and for society. Evidence from behavioural science and neuroscience will be presented which demonstrates the benefits of high levels of well-being. As stated recently by a senior public figure: “If you treasure it, measure it”, so the presentation will consider how well-being can be measured. The availability of good measures will enable the evaluation of interventions to enhance well-being in schools, workplaces and communities. It is proposed that well-being measurement and evaluation will in turn lead to better policy decision in the future.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Society for the Application of Research (CSAR) series.

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