Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care


WELLCOMM (Wellbeing in Communities)

There is strong theoretical literature on why community engagement is crucial to the survival and thrival of our species, and emerging data from intervention studies on the benefits specifically for wellbeing. But there remains a paucity of high-quality, large-scale, and longitudinal research on which community activities can affect which aspects of wellbeing and who is most likely to benefit. Consequently, this project will analyse WHAT the benefits of community engagement are for wellbeing, WHO benefits most, and HOW to encourage community engagement amongst different populations.

We will consider six types of community engagement:

  • Arts  
  • Culture and heritage
  • Libraries and literature
  • Sports and nature activities
  • Volunteering
  • Community groups

We will consider three sorts of individual subjective wellbeing:

  • Hedonic wellbeing including both affective aspects (such as happiness and pleasure in daily life and being free from negative affect) as well as cognitive-evaluative aspects (such as life satisfaction)
  • Eudemonic wellbeing including flourishing, self-acceptance, trust, environmental mastery, autonomy, purpose, and growth.
  • Social wellbeing including social integration, social acceptance, social contribution, social actualisation, and social coherence

In exploring WHAT the benefits are and WHO benefits, we will use causal inference methods to explore longitudinal associations between community engagement and wellbeing using the four leading UK Birth Cohort Studies. Between them these data sets include 300 questions on community engagement and over a dozen different validated scales on wellbeing:

  1. The National Survey of Health and Development (NCDS; aka the 1946 Birth Cohort Study)
  2. The National Child Development Survey (NCDS; aka the 1958 Birth Cohort Study)
  3. The 1970 Birth Cohort Study (BCS70)
  4. The Millennium Cohort Study (MCS)

In considering HOW to encourage engagement, we will use cross-sectional statistical methods to identify what the barriers or motivators to engagement are in different populations using two datasets. Between them these data sets include over 30 questions on community engagement and 18 questions on capabilities, opportunities and motivations to engage:

  1. The BBC Get Creative data, gathered by Fancourt over the past 2 years, is a dataset of 89,749 adults in the UK collected as part of a Citizen Science experiment across 2018-2019.
  2. The Taking Part Survey Longitudinal data, involving 10,182 adults interviewed from 2011-2018.

This research work will be complemented by a rich portfolio of impact, engagement and training activities. Overall, this project addresses a core research gap and aims to transform our understanding of the relationship between community engagement and wellbeing at a population level. Planned analyses will provide information about which activities are likely to benefit which individuals, and how these individuals can be motivated to take part.


Principal Investigator: Dr Daisy Fancourt

Contact: Dr Daisy Fancourt

Collaborators: Dr Karen Mak (UCL), Dr Marie Polley (Social Prescribing Network), Deborah Hardoon (What Works Centre for Wellbeing)