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To promote transparency and provide information, the Federal Planning Bureau regularly publishes the methods and results of its works. The publications are organised in different series, such as Outlooks, Working Papers and Planning Papers. Some reports can be consulted here, along with the Short Term Update newsletters that were published until 2015. You can search our publications by theme, publication type, author and year.

What matters to Belgians ? Analysis of the determinants of individual well-being in Belgium [ Working Paper 04-17 - ]

This Working Paper analyses the determinants of individual well-being in Belgium, using data from the EU-SILC survey. The analysis shows that on average health, both mental and physical, is the key determinant of well-being for Belgians. Enjoying sufficient income to access what is regarded as the prevailing standard of living in Belgium, having a job and being surrounded by loved ones also have a significant and positive impact on well-being. Besides these results for "average" Belgians, the analysis of different sub-groups highlights that these determinants are not of equal importance to all Belgians. These results contribute to the FPB’s work on the search for indicators complementary to GDP.

Belgians are, on average, satisfied with their lives. They assess their well-being at a little over 7.5 points, on a scale from 0 to 10. However, not all Belgians are equal in this field. Compared to the average, people who are permanently disabled to work, unemployed, without a diploma, with a low income or living alone are somewhat less satisfied with their lives.

This Working Paper (WP) gives explanations to these differences and shows what is important for the Belgians’ well-being. To do this, it analyses in detail the determinants of individual well-being in Belgium, using data from the EU-SILC survey and according to an internationally proven methodology. This survey covers many areas of life, including well-being, and a large representative sample of the Belgian population (around 11 000 people, in around 6 000 households).

The analysis shows that both mental and physical health is the key determinant of well-being in Belgium.In Belgium, very bad health - compared to a good state of health - makes you fall down the wellbeing scale by more than 1.6 points on average. After health, enjoying sufficient income to access what is regarded as a prevailing standard of living, having a job and being surrounded by loved ones also have a significant and positive impact on well-being in Belgium.

If income is a determinant of the well-being, its impact is quite limited. On average, halving one’s income increases the well-being by 0.3 points. In comparison, not having a sufficient income to access the standard of living regarded as prevailing in Belgium makes you lose 0.7 points of well-being. Compared to having a full-time job, being permanently disabled to work or unemployed makes well-being go down by around 0.5 and 0.2 points respectively. Similarly, the lack of a diploma makes the average wellbeing of Belgians decrease by 0.3 points. Regarding social connections, not living alone, or having someone to discuss personal matters with or to ask for help, makes well-being go up by around 0.2-0.3 points.

These results apply to an “average” Belgian. To complement them, different sub-groups of the Belgian population have also been analysed: male and female, three socioeconomic categories (unemployed, workers and inactive people), four age groups and five income categories (quintiles). The analysis shows that well-being determinants are not of equal importance to all Belgians and that there are big differences between some sub-groups. For example, very bad health, not being  married and not having an increase in income impact the well-being of unemployed people relatively more than that of the “average” Belgian and of workers. Similarly, being permanently disabled to work, the lack of a diploma and not having anyone to ask for help have a relatively higher impact on the well-being of people aged under 25 than that of “average” Belgians and of older people.

The analysis presented in this WP not only identifies the determinants of well-being. It also measures the impact of a series of variables on well-being and thus gives a better insight into how some life events affect the well-being of Belgians.

The results presented here contribute to the future work of the Federal Planning Bureau (FPB) on the search for an indicator complementary to GDP to measure the well-being of current generations. The results of that work will be published in a forthcoming Working Paper. The future FPB work will focus not only on the well-being of current generations, but also on the well-being of future generations and of people living in other countries.

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