Society and Crisis: Quantitative and Qualitative Evaluations of Societal Well-Being

British Sociological Association Regional Postgraduate Day Event 4th June 2015 College Court, University of Leicester

Conference posterPress Release

The Department of Sociology at the University of Leicester hosted a one day symposium focused on measuring societal well-being during current recession. The talks offered new ideas for measuring well-being of individuals and modern societies, as well as preliminary findings on the life satisfaction levels in the UK following recent/current recession in the UK.

The event was held in association with the British Sociological Association who sponsored the event as part of the BSA Regional Postgraduate event series around the country. The College of Social Science and the Department of Sociology at the University of Leicester generously provided additional funding for this event.

The symposium brought together academics, mostly postgraduate researchers, from ten leading research universities around the country stretching from far north with the University of Aberdeen to deep south with the University of Sussex. Among the topics presented, the talks provided:

  • measures of the quality of the whole societies in terms of well-being and presented the model of Social Quality developed by leading sociologists from the University of Aberdeen
  • multiple dimensions of inequality in the UK, also from the point of view of ethnicity and how they contribute to well-being in the society
  • insight into the relation between employment and life satisfaction, in the context of mismatch between personality traits and labour market, as well as during current recession
  • effects of 2011 London riots on the well-being of Londoners, assessment of Irish well-being before and after the crisis, and new insights into how young people in the UK (Bristol) define happiness
  • calls for more qualitative research regarding subjective well-being which provides “stories behind numbers” and moves away from quantifying well-being in monetary terms for the purposes of public policy
  • the latest scientific evidence on main factors associated with happiness that include among economic security also genetic predisposition and air quality

Two experts in the field, Professor Claire Wallace and Professor Andrew Oswald contributed to the event by providing engaging keynote talks that discussed the latest developments in the field of happiness studies. The participants also discussed the contribution of sociology and other academic disciplines to the well-being debate and offered their opinions on the following question “What other terms should we use to evaluate our societies if well-being is not enough?” The aim of the discussion was to gather views on the role of sociology in the well-being debate and included ideas for different terms that are best used to describe it ranging from flourishing to quality of life.

The event was organised by Katarzyna Kucaba , PhD student from the Department of Sociology at the University of Leicester whose work is focused on existing variation in life satisfaction trends in European countries in the last 12 years and the factors that are associated with these different trends, examined also in the context of current recession and the effect it had on the subgroups of societies in Europe.

Katarzyna Kucaba said: “The idea for the event came from my own PhD project which in turn was influenced by governments around Europe calling for new measures of societal well-being which go beyond GDP. The current economic crisis paradoxically contributed to the research about happiness as it challenged the existing notions of what matters to life satisfaction and undermined the importance of national wealth as an estimator of the state of society and well-being of its citizens. The growth of happiness studies, already recorded in psychology and economics can be enriched by scholars from other disciplines like sociology, anthropology, philosophy, human geography and law, who can provide important information on measurements of not only individual and economic well-being but also on the state of the society as a whole. It is important that these other disciplines take part in the debate about happiness that dominates the current political landscapes of European societies. As such, this event provided an excellent opportunity to future academics to showcase their cutting-edge research done in the UK, enriched by the overview of the latest scientific evidence about happiness to date and the most universal model for measuring societal quality”.

Dr David Bartram from the University of Leicester added: “This event reinforces the impression that social science research on well-being and happiness is a mature endeavour. Interest from policy makers and the general public is amply justified, in light of the high-quality research on offer at events of this sort.”


Morning Keynote 'What is Quality of Life? Theories and Measurements' by Professor Claire Wallace from the University of Aberdeen
Panel Session 1

Matt Jenkins- Economising Existence: 'Well-Being' and Cost-Benefit Analysis
Deniz Sevinc- Multidimensional Inequality in the United Kingdom: Just How Unequal We Are?
David Tross- Should Measures of National Well-Being Include Perceptions of National Well-Being?
Sophie Coco Jones- Defining Happiness: A Qualitative Approach. An Exploration of Happiness Definitions from the Perspective of Young Adults in Bristol

Panel Session 2

David Bayliss- Work, Worklessness and Well-Being: A Disaggregated Analysis of the Impact of
Recession in the UK

Neel Sagar- Personality Mismatch in the Labour Market and Subjective Well-Being
Panka Bencsik- Burning Inside: The Effects of the 2011 Riots on the Well-Being of Londoners
Dr Anil Gumber- Happiness and Well-Being Inequalities by Ethnicity in the UK: Corrected for Differences in Socio-Demographic, Economic and Contextual Factors
Eilis Lawlor- GDP Growth and Well-Being: Ireland Before and After the Crisis

Open Discussion What other terms should we use to evaluate our societies if well-being is not enough? The contribution of sociology and other academic disciplines
Afternoon Keynote 'Happiness around the World: The Current Scientific Evidence' by Professor Andrew Oswald from the University of Warwick


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