The western world-view is dominated by notions of progress. Progress is about making life better. That is, improving quality of life and wellbeing. Indicators are crucial to such progress because we cannot know, as a society, whether quality of life is improving unless we can monitor and measure how it is changing. Policies, for example, are judged on how they affect relevant indicators.
Quality of life is subjective as well as objective, a matter of how people feel about life as well as the material conditions in which they live. Interestingly, however, these two kinds of measurement are normally poorly related. So we need both. There are a plethora of objective measures that relate to quality of life and wellbeing. There is, however, a lack of subjective measures that are rigorous, comprehensive and systematic.
The AustralianUnity Wellbeing Index is designed to fill this niche. It has the aim of promoting greater public and political awareness of the social factors underpinning wellbeing, as well as enhancing scientific understanding of subjective wellbeing.
The origin of this project occurred early in 2001 when a contract was signed between Australian Unity, a financial services and healthcare company based in Melbourne, and the Australian Center on Quality of Life at Deakin University. This contract established a partnership with the aim of creating an index of perceived wellbeing for the Australian population. Under the terms of this agreement, general population surveys, each of 2,000 respondents selected on a demographically proportional basis, are conducted every six months. Copies of these reports are available on our Australian Unity Wellbeing Index page.
Under the terms of the contract, both parties own all data and there is no restriction on their use for scientific purposes. In addition, Australian Unity supports the Index being used and developed as a scientific tool. In this spirit they encourage investigations into the usefulness of the Index in other countries. The generic name for the index outside Australia is the International Wellbeing Index which involves two scales. A seven item Personal Wellbeing Index and a six item National Wellbeing Index. All items utilize a 0 - 10 end-defined scale of satisfaction.