Author:Ayo Wahlberg (University of Copenhagen)
Paper short abstract:
Recently, governments have been held accountable for their abilities to improve the ‘quality of life’, ‘wellbeing’ and ‘happiness’ of their populations. I examine QoL, wellbeing and happiness measures as a particular kind of population making.
Paper long abstract:
Nation states have long been held accountable for their abilities to reduce mortality and morbidity rates through the prevention and treatment of disease. Disease occurrences have been counted to calculate incidence and prevalence rates, just as these occurrences have been correlated with different lifestyle factors (exercise, sedentary work, exposure, sleep, alcohol use, etc.). In this way, public health has been about avoiding or delaying morbid deaths in a given population. Yet in more recent years, governments have been increasingly held accountable for their abilities to improve the 'quality of life', 'wellbeing' and 'happiness' of their populations as a matter of health. Proponents of such measures "strongly recommended the inclusion of indicators of Subjective Well-being… to help guide and measure progress". In this paper, I examine how QoL, wellbeing and happiness measures (e.g. National Wellbeing, Gross National Happiness, EuroQoL) are derived from individuals and then aggregated - what some have called "the science of wellbeing" - as a particular kind of population making. Importantly, I distinguish between disease-related measures (focused on the QoL and wellbeing of those who are sick) and more generic measures. Contemporary public health is increasingly as concerned with the making of satisfied, content and well populations as it is with reducing morbidity and mortality rates.
From person to population and back: exploring accountability in public health