Lockdown release should be based on people’s wellbeing

All policy decisions should be based on a common metric of how they affect the wellbeing of the people.
- Professor Lord Richard Layard
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LSE experts from the Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) released a framework to determine when to release the COVID-19 lockdown.

Their research is based on analysing the impact of many factors such as incomes, unemployment, mental health, air quality and death rates with a view to understanding when the costs of continuing the lockdown exceed the benefits. These factors are brought together using a common currency of their impact on individuals’ wellbeing.

Their use of Wellbeing-Years (WELLBYs) builds on the established idea of Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) already used by organisations like the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), with the framework allowing politicians to make decisions in a consistent, transparent manner using their own assumptions.

Professor Lord Richard Layard, Director  of  the  Wellbeing  Programme  at  the  CEP, said: “All policy decisions should be based on a common metric of how they affect the wellbeing of the people. Now is the time to apply this metric to the hardest decision of our times.”

Lord Gus O’Donnell, Visiting Professor of the Wellbeing Programme at the CEP, said: “This work provides, for the first time, a framework for bringing together the impact of the virus on different aspects of people’s lives. If you look at the government’s five tests that it wants met before lifting restrictions,  what they are really all about are the number of deaths and the number of cases. They do not take account of the wider reality of this lockdown on wellbeing, which is what this framework attempts to do.”

Professor Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Associate of the CEP, said: “The science of wellbeing has now matured to a point where we have an empirical grip on how all the economic, health, and social changes impact our experience of life. Wellbeing metrics lend themselves naturally as a common currency to bridge these spheres of impact and inform evidence-based policy-making with a focus on advancing the greater good.”  

Behind the article

When to release the lockdown? A wellbeing framework for analysing costs and benefits is a report from the CEP Wellbeing Policy Group, LSE.