A better way to measure the UK’s health and happiness | Letters

Government policies should be judged by their effect on the life satisfaction of the population, not by economic growth alone, says Prof Richard Layard. Plus letters from Sarah Davidson and Ethan Oshoko

Your editorial rightly points out that GDP is not a good measure of how people are faring (19 June ). As an alternative, you offer the UN’s human development index . But we already have a better British alternative – the measure of life satisfaction in the Office for National Statistics’ annual population survey.

The question asked is: “Overall, how satisfied are you with your life these days (0: not at all satisfied, 10: completely)?” The results are published every quarter. That is an excellent measure of the nation’s success. It provides a good account of how we are doing on average and of the degree of fundamental inequality in our society.

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Germany has come clean about the state of its public toilets. Why can’t Britain? | Sophie Wilkinson

The country’s first School Toilet Summit was held this month to improve public facilities. Instead of sneering, let’s join them

Germany might be renowned for its cleanliness and order, but the nation’s toilets seem to tell a different story. In 2023, one study found that half of German school students would rather hold it in than relieve themselves in the school loos. But no more. The first German School Toilet Summit was held this month to tackle the issue. To make toilets more appealing to young people, the German Toilet Organization awarded prizes totalling €50,000 (£42,000) to school pupils with the most innovative suggestions for improving the hygiene of public facilities. One of the winners, Hendrik Simon, 14, said of his school toilets: “There was urine on the floor, which was very sticky, and it stank … The mood was very depressing .”

You might scoff at our European neighbours, who have a reputation for speaking plainly about bowel movements, sitting down to wee (even the men) and examining their own “fecal health”, aided by the country’s Flachspüler, or in-shelf toilets. But they’ve got the right idea in getting young people to consider the grossness of public conveniences. Because the hygiene and accessibility of our public facilities is crucial to public life.

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