LifeProven Wellbeing Property Consultancy - Research Foundation
The scientific foundation LifeProven uses to guide and develop better homes for improved occupant Health, Wellbeing and Quality of Life over time
The majority of our time and financial resources are spent in the home environment. Despite this commitment, there is a dearth of high quality, context specific research investigating the relationship between the home environment and its accessibility with health, wellbeing and quality of life (QOL) over time among home dwellers.
What is wellbeing?
Whilst there are many competing definitions of Wellbeing (Dodge et al 2012), for the purpose of LifeProven, Wellbeing is defined as ‘feeling good and functioning well and comprises an individual’s experience of their life; and a comparison of life circumstances with social norms and values’ (Department of Health and Social Care, 2014).
The concept of Wellbeing is meaningful for people and for many sectors of society, because it tells us how people perceive that their lives are going (Kahneman 1999). Additionally, Wellbeing is characterised by the presence of positive emotions (e.g., contentment, happiness), the absence of negative emotions (e.g., depression, anxiety), satisfaction with life, fulfilment and positive functioning (Diener et al 1999, Diener 2000, Naci & Ioannidis 2015). In simple terms, wellbeing can be described as judging life positively and feeling good about oneself (Veenhoven 2008).
Why wellbeing is important / why the housing industry needs to take it seriously?
Wellbeing and QOL are current buzz words and many in the building sector may see ‘addressing’ these simply as ‘tick box’ exercises. However, this should not be the case given how important promoting Wellbeing is on individuals health and sense of purpose. In fact, Wellbeing epitomises the concept of adding life to years and is associated with numerous health, job, family, and economically related benefits across the lifespan (Lyubomirsky et al 2005).
For instance, positive Wellbeing is associated with greater happiness and is protective against the emergence of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression (Diener & Chan 2011). Moreover, people with higher Wellbeing scores have a 19% and 29% decreased risk of dying earlier due to any cause and cardiovascular disease specific causes respectively, versus those with low wellbeing (Chan & Steptoe 2008). People with greater Wellbeing are less likely to develop physical illness and recover more quickly should they acquire an illness (Lamers et al 2012). Greater Wellbeing among an individual is also positively associated with self-perceived health, positive lifestyle behaviours, social connectedness, and productivity at home and work (Pressman & Cohen, 2005, Naci and Ioannidis 2015).
Given the breadth of benefits associated with Wellbeing, numerous national governments have set out to measure this important metric among the populations they serve. For instance, the United Kingdom Public Health Outcomes Framework (PHOF) (Department of Health, 2012), the National Health Service Outcomes Framework (NHSOF) (Department of Health 2011) and the Office of National statistics (ONS, 2013) specifically measure and monitor Wellbeing. In addition, Public Health England was set up with the primary aim to improve the Wellbeing of the nation. Moreover, local authorities across the UK have specifically set up health and wellbeing boards, responsible for measuring and improving community’s wellbeing (Department of Health 2012).
The scientific relationship between housing and wellbeing
If you go on many home building development service websites, you will see mentions of taking Wellbeing seriously and some claim they have done ‘research’, which often constitutes reference to other people’s work or non-peer reviewed research on good data science collection (which is the gold standard Litmus test in science). In times of COVID, never before have we seen the importance of having good, accurate data science to track changes in a population’s health.
In November 2018, we conducted a systematic review of peer reviewed research to understand what the published evidence on the relationship between the home environment and Wellbeing is. In summary, to date, most of the research has focussed on adverse outcomes from poor housing and accessibility issues. Minimal prospective (forward looking) research has attempted to take a proactive and preventive approach to understand the impact of the home on quality of life and Wellbeing over time.
Most of the studies to date were small and/or cross sectional in design which means that the underlying relationships observed were unclear. Consequently, we have a situation where many people are designing homes with little or no data to ‘back their decisions’ and instead rely on ‘expert opinion’. In the hierarchy of evidence, reliance upon pure opinion is the lowest form of evidence whilst forward looking data collection to understand relationships over time is much higher quality evidence.
LifeProven set out to be different. No opinions, no ‘tick box’ activities for Wellbeing. LifeProven was set up to be led by the data to actively inform and track the impact of the built environment on occupant Wellbeing using robust data science.
What did we do to address the poor science in the property sector?
Upon realisation that the evidence base for Wellbeing and the home environment was poor, we developed a control group open survey to primarily understand the key home features that are associated with better Wellbeing and QOL using International standard metrics. The survey was completed by 139 adults and was used to guide future research and professional services consultancy work by LifeProven (Project Management and Quantity Surveying).
Instead of simply calculating averages and raw percentages of wellbeing and satisfaction, we adapted a more sophisticated data science approach to conduct multivariable regression analyses and calculate correlation co-efficient. Undertaking this type of analysis enables the ‘adjustment’ for other factors that could explain the relationship between the home and Wellbeing such as age, income, gender, physical & mental health conditions and many other factors.
Thus, this enables a truer understanding of the relationship between different features of home design and Wellbeing and QOL. The correlations are rated from 0 (no relationship at all) to 100 (perfect relationship) and represented by an R and come with a corresponding ‘p value’ which helps understand if the results are ‘significant’ and not a relationship observed by chance. A p value of less than 0.05 is Internationally recognised as being ‘significant’.
We found that among our sample, that the top factors associated with better Wellbeing were:
How we use data science to guide professional services
Off the back of our control group data science findings, we have developed the cutting-edge data informed LifeProven Wellbeing Framework, which underpins our Wellbeing Consultancy Services.
The LifeProven Wellbeing Framework is a 99-point building and placemaking assessment tool, used to objectively guide clients and their design teams at all stages of the project lifecycle to make more ethical, socially led development decisions using robust data-science. Our Wellbeing Consultancy services help inform and guide our professional Project Management and Quantity Surveying services to ensure the delivery and cost advice we provide achieves enhanced social and financial development outcomes; whilst maintaining project viability.