“Measuring and preserving the Island way of life.”

There is a wealth of information available on well-being measurement, quality of life, and other ways of measuring progress in our society. There’s so much that we divided them into four sections:

Studies and Reports

Most governments measure success in terms of economic growth. The most common measurement is Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It tracks the size of the economy by measuring things like personal consumption and government spending. GDP does not measure the social, economic or environmental costs of production and expansion. Instead, it counts expenditures that attempt to repair these problems as success.

Studies have concluded that measurements like GDP are seriously inadequate indicators of the well-being of people and their environments. Organizations around the world are looking for alternatives to measurements like GDP, and are calling on governments to adopt new indicators that focus on quality of life and well-being.

Many of these studies can be found on Wikiprogress: a searchable database of international well-being and sustainability projects.

Just a few of these initiatives include:


Atkinson Foundation: a charitable foundation dedicated to social and economic justice

Canadian Index of Well-Being Project: based at the University of Waterloo

Canadian Policy Research Networks:

  • It was a national organization that conducted studies and provided information for directing policies on quality of life and other issues. It ceased operating in 2009
  • It published a number of reports on quality of life indicators for Canada

David Suzuki Foundation

GPI Atlantic: a non-profit organization based in Nova Scotia, promoting and providing information on the Genuine Progress Index

Human Development Index in Canada

OECD’s Better Life Index for Canada and the Provinces: Challenges and Results

Peg: well-being indicators for Winnipeg

Saskatoon Poverty Reduction Partnership

The Sustainability Project: a non-profit organization based in Ontario, serving as a public resource for information on sustainability and well-being measurements

Sustainable Calgary


Alliance for Sustainability and Prosperity: an international network that disseminates research about quality of life and advocates for public participation

Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future: conducts research at Boston University into issues of human well-being

Genuine Progress in the States

National Accounts of Well-being: a UK initiative led by the New Economics Foundation

Redefining Progress: a U.S. based research centre that works to develop indicators for economic well-being, environmental preservation, and social justice

The State of the USA

UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): the United Nation’s set of international objectives to improve global well-being

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Quality of life and well-being indicators can be grouped into three general categories, with varying objectives. They include:

a) Economic measurements

These types of indicators are a variation of GDP. They are an objective measurement of economic factors like income, but unlike GDP they balance total expenditures against costs to the economy such as environmental damage and poor health.

One example of this type of measurement is the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI). GPI starts by measuring personal income and expenditure. It differs from GDP in that it also measures factors like unpaid work, environmental damage and the economic costs of social problems like crime, addiction and sickness. It then subtracts these costs from GDP.

b) Well-being measurements

These indicators are subjective measurements of well-being usually conducted by surveys. They are useful in that they reflect what people themselves see as important to their own well-being, but because they are subjective, they may not identify factors that people do not recognise as being important to well-being, such as the environment or health.

The largest of these is the World Values Survey (WVS), led by an international network of experts based in Sweden. It regularly surveys people in almost 100 countries about life satisfaction.

c) Composite measurements

These indicators combine both objective and subjective measurements. They measure a range of factors such as life satisfaction, health, community involvement, democratic engagement and employment.

An example of a composite set of indicators is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Better Life Index. The OECD website allows individuals to conduct their own survey and then compare the results of different countries.

Another example is the Happy Planet Index, which weighs subjective international survey results about life satisfaction against objective measurements of ecological footprints.

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Jurisdictions using new measurements

Many jurisdictions around the world are reconsidering how they measure progress. Some governments are studying this area, collecting data or adopting new indicators as a method of measuring well-being and quality of life. See for example:


Australian Bureau of Statistics


Gross National Happiness Index: indicators used by the Kingdom of Bhutan to measure the contentment of its citizens

The EU:

Beyond GDP Initiative: the European Commission’s ongoing development of indicators of environmental and social progress

European Quality of Life Survey: an EU initiative led by Eurofound – European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions

Sustainable development indicators: Eurostat – European Commission statistics


Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress: Commission report to the French government, 2008


Office of National Statistics

Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015


Genuine Progress Indicator – State of Maryland

Genuine Progress Indicator – State of Vermont

Genuine Progress Indicator – State of Washington

Presenting the Genuine Progress Indicator Baseline – State of Hawaii

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Quality of life and well-being in Canada

Efforts to introduce legislation that facilitates quality of life and well-being measurements are not new in Canada. In 2001 the federal Liberal government introduced the Canada Well-being Measurement Act, which did not pass. Since then the federal Green Party has attempted to introduce the Canada Genuine Progress Measurement Act, which has also not passed.

Although legislation has not yet been passed, governments continue to collect and review data based on quality of life and well-being. See for example:

Indicators of Well-being in Canada: Employment and Social Development Canada

Quality of Life Reporting System: Federation of Canadian Municipalities

a) Atlantic Canada:

Efforts to identify a better way of measuring quality of life and well-being are not new to Atlantic Canada.

GPI Atlantic has worked to develop a Genuine Progress Indicator for Nova Scotia. In 2001 Nova Scotia introduced its own Well-being Measurement Act, although it did not pass.

Labrador and Newfoundland maintains Community Accounts, a resource for well-being indicators, demographic profiles, and other community information.

b) Prince Edward Island

Studies about quality of life indicators have been taking place in Prince Edward Island for over a decade. See for example:

Quality of Life in Rural and Small Town Prince Edward Island. David Bruce and Patricia Gadsden (Sackville, NB: Rural and Small Town Programme, Mount Allison University, c. 1999)

Quality of Island Life Survey: Tyne Valley and Surrounding Areas, 2006. Dolores LaVangie, Irené Novaczek, Stacey Enman, Rachel MacKay and Katherine Clough (University of Prince Edward Island: Institute of Island Studies) 2006

A Search for a Measure of the Quality of Life on Prince Edward Island: an Inter-provincial ‘Cost of Living’ Inquiry. Godfrey Baldacchino and Matt Funk (University of Prince Edward Island: Island Studies Program, 2008)

Social and Cultural Values Mapping as a Decision-Support Tool for Climate Change Adaptation. I. Novaczek, J. MacFadyen, D. Bardati, K. MacEachern. (University of Prince Edward Island: Institute of Island Studies) 2011.

Immigrants, Islandness and Perceptions of Quality of Life on Prince Edward Island.” James Randall, Peter Kitchen, Nazeem Muhajarine, Bruce Newbold, Allison Williams and Kathleen Wilson. Island Studies Journal, (2014) vol. 9, no., 2, pp. 343 – 362

The State of Rural Prince Edward Island. James Randall, Don Desserud and Katharine MacDonald (Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation, 2015)

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“Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things… Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them… Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

Robert F. Kennedy (1968)