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Family wellbeing: Measuring what matters

Family outside house
Published: June 2012


What positive behaviours can people adopt to improve the wellbeing of their families? This evidence review sought to identify what things are known to influence family well-being.


We found that five areas of life are key to family wellbeing. These are:

EAT:  Nutritional value of food and social context of meal times contribute to family well-being

Not only are what, when and how much we eat and drink key to our health – but so is the social context of food. Cooking and eating together provide a daily opportunity for talking, listening, and being together.

CONNECT:  Connections with others play an important role in our well-being

Having a network of social connections or high levels of social support has been shown to:

  • increase our immunity to infection;
  • lower our risk of heart disease;
  • reduce mental decline as we get older.

Not having close personal ties has been shown to pose significant risks for our health.

MOVE:  Physical activity boosts general health and well-being

The positive impact of physical activity on health and wellbeing is vast and compelling. A 2004 Department of Health (DoH) report clearly stated that physically active adults have 20–30% reduced risk of premature death and 50% reduced risk of developing major chronic diseases.

PLAY:  Awareness and curiosity improves well-being

Having a positive emotional style and being aware of what is going on in the present has a beneficial effect on one's well-being and health. Reminding people 'to take notice' can strengthen and broaden awareness, contributing to positive well-being.

LEARN:  Lifelong learning can have an important positive impact on individual and societal well-being

On an individual level, learning and educational attainment can lead to higher wage returns but it can also equip the individual with important life skills which form an important basis of well-being.

Adult learning has also been associated with increasing life satisfaction, optimism and efficacy, particularly when it is a personal choice and goal.

GIVE:  Giving influences people’s levels of well-being

Making connections with the wider community has been identified as positive for well-being. Evidence also suggests that giving boosts the individual happiness of the person who gives.


Brief overview of published research. Search of survey documentation from the UK Data Archive, question bank and other sources (to identify questions).

Read the report