Happiness and well-being are abstract concepts that often escape one universal definition. Despite this happiness and well-being are frequently referred to as the ultimate aims of individuals and nations as a whole. The recent rapid growth of governmental interest in many European countries and beyond in happiness and well-being have had a great impact in the expansion of study in this area. Happiness and well-being studies are currently at the core of many social policy programmes in several European countries and beyond. For example, The Scottish Government programme intended to promote child well-being called Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) (2008) outlines eight desired well-being indicators ( Active, Respected, Responsible, Included, Safe, Healthy, Achieving and Nurture). Children and young people are citizens who do not always have full access to participate in matters affecting them. The growth of political interest in this area might offer an ideal opportunity for organisations working for children and young people to capitalise on this momentum in order to promote child and adolescent well-being and happiness.
There have been a number of reasons why well-being and happiness have become topics at the forefront of pupil policy debate. For example, in the United Kingdom (UK) following reasons can be identified:
a) Child and adolescent well-being in the UK has been heavily debated in the media and in academia following the UNICEF (2007) report ’An Overview of Child Well-being in Rich Countries‘. Based on this report, children in the UK were at the bottom of the table when 21 industrialised countries were compared in terms of child well-being.
b) High profile media cases of child abuse have also contributed to the rise of interest. Questions have been asked about how to develop methodologies and practices that will not only keep children safe, but promote children’s well-being.
c) The Stiglitz Commission (OECD) (2009) report “Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress” was published a year after it was commissioned by the President of France, Nicholas Sarkozy. The report highlighted a need for wider use of well-being indicators to inform policy design. The UK coalition government announced in its 2010 budget report that the Stiglitz Commission’s agenda will be taken forward across the UK. A further announcement in November 2010 was made by UK government stating that it will start to measure its citizen’s happiness and The UK Office for National Statistic (ONS) has now developed national well-being measures to do so.
Now we just need to know what well-being and happiness consist of?