Several countries have recently begun showing a good deal of interest in
obtaining a broader perspective on prosperity and national development. This
study is concerned with the background and history of the SCP life situation
index. SCP has used this index to track trends in the life situation of
the Dutch population from 1974 to the present. Life situation is defined here
as a combination of wellbeing and prosperity; it covers a wide range of key
social domains: health, participation (volunteering, social isolation,
socio-cultural leisure activities, sports), housing situation, ownership of
consumer goods, mobility and holiday patterns. The objective of the index is to
be policy-relevant, describe people's overall life situation and make
improvements or deteriorations in life situation visible.
The description of the life situation is placed in a broader framework of background information. This framework, which is based around the individual life situation, also includes determinants of life situation, environment and the use of public services. Within this broader framework the study also looks at a number of subjective indicators, based on the assumption that people's life situation affects their degree of happiness and satisfaction.
The report gives a detailed description of what the SCP life situation index is, how it originated and how it has changed over time. In doing so, it looks among other things at the historical and international context and discusses the various choices that have to be made, such as the choice of domains and indicators (are the right domains and indicators included in the index?) and the way in which those domains and indicators are combined to form a single index. The report also considers the question of whether using such an index is actually helpful.
Over the past 30 years the life situation of the Dutch population has improved. This improvement has occurred in all social groups, but not to the same extent across all groups. People with a good life situation are moreover happier and more satisfied than people with a poorer life situation.