Hello my name is

Saamah Abdallah


Wellbeing economics expert and communication scientist

I am two things:

  • Award-winning expert on wellbeing economics and alternative indicators of progress
  • PhD Candidate in Communication Science studying the links between advertising, personal values and political attitudes

Wellbeing economics

I perceive that the great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by false estimates they have made of the value of things.”

Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790)

So many wrongs have been committed in the pursuit of economic growth. Environmental damage, rising inequality, disregard for workers’ rights. That’s why we need a new compass to direct our actions. The pursuit of wellbeing is far more compatible with sustainability and social justice.

I have been privileged to work at the forefront of wellbeing economics and policy since 2006. Highlights during this time have included:

NEW! Check out my interview with Brian Petersen on the Podcast Crossing the Chasm.

Currently I focus on the following topics and types of work

Wellbeing publications and projects

  • Thriving Places Index. Working with the Centre for Thriving Places to develop a set of indicators for thriving places for England and Wales, we update the Index annually (2015 – 2021).
  • London Prosperity Index. Worked with the London Prosperity Board to help develop their Prosperity Index (2018).
  • Santa Monica Wellbeing Index. Worked with RAND Corporation and the City of Santa Monica local government to develop a well-being index for the town in California, and develop tools to ensure its effective use by policy-makers and the public (2013 – 2017).
  • What works to improve social capital? Rapid review of the effectiveness of interventions aimed at improving three social capital outcomes (neighbourhood belonging, social support networks and community cohesion). Project for the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, working with Centre for Thriving Places (2022).
  • Exploring the effects of social capital on COVID-19 rates at the local level. Working paper based on analysis of Understanding Society Survey data on COVID-19 rates, working with Centre for Thriving Places, and University of Groningen.
  • Understanding Thriving Communities. Project for the National Lottery Community Fund to help understand what makes communities thrive. I led analysis of Understanding Society Survey data to identify local level variables that predict a range of indicators of thriving communities (2019)
  • What Works Centre for Wellbeing, Communities Evidence Programmes. Major UK government investment in programme to marshal and disseminate robust wellbeing evidence to ensure that it is being used in policy and practice. I led the stakeholder engagement process for the £1m communities evidence programme, to shape the evidence programme and de facto managed the consortium including 10 organisations, and was first author for two papers on wellbeing inequality (2015 – 2017)
  • Migrants: speak up! Designed and analysed a survey for recent migrants in Europe, for the European Network Against Racism. The survey covers topics such as experiences in the labour market, housing, wellbeing and crime. It is innovative in using Facebook advertising to reach respondents (2017).
  • Making Well-Being Count for Policy. Co-Investigator on ESRC funded project working with City University and the University of Cambridge. We analysed data from the first six rounds of the European Social Survey, and ran three seminars bringing together policy makers and academics to explore the findings. The final report was called Looking through the Wellbeing Kaleidoscope (2015-2016)
  • Quality of life in Europe: Subjective well-being. Contracted by Eurofound, to analyse the results of the 3rd European Quality of Life Survey and write a report based on the results. The report has been widely disseminated, and analyses from it have been included in DG EMPL outputs (2012-2013)
  • Analysis, implementation and dissemination of well-being indicators, Eurostat. I was the wellbeing expert and led on a review of the risk of cultural biases affecting subjective well-being measurement, a literature review on the drivers of well-being at the individual level, and an analysis of inequalities and disparities in well-being (2012-2013).
  • Wellbeing Patterns Uncovered. Report based on analyses of the first round of the ONS Annual Population Survey to contain wellbeing data. I led the project, involving data analysis and the selection of policy-relevant findings for a report (2012)
  • National Accounts of Well-Being. The first extensive comparison of well-being across Europe, based on data from the European Social Survey (2008-2009)
  • Ways to Well-being: Exploring the links between children’s activities and their subjective well-being. Report prepared in collaboration with the Children’s Society (2014)

Green grin-o-meter. Ran a series of workshops with primary school children in South Wales on the theme of sustainable wellbeing. Based on the workshops, we developed on an online survey to measure their sustainable wellbeing and provide feedback and ideas (unfortunately the website is now offline) (2010)

  • COVID WIRED– Covid Wellbeing Inequalities Research Dashboard. Developed for What Works Wellbeing, a dashboard for understanding the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on wellbeing and inequalities in wellbeing (2021)
  • Wellbeing in the pandemicAnalysis of the UK Annual Population Survey wellbeing data to inform a series of blogs on the What Works Wellbeing website (2021)

Speaking engagements

TEDx “How to achieve good lives that don’t cost the Earth” TedX Southampton University, April 2015

“Beyond the obsession with GDP: Measuring progress differently” (im)Possible Future Festival. Vooruit Theatre, Ghent, Belgium, March 2015

“Five Headline Indicators of National Success” UCL, London, June 2016

I have spoken on wellbeing in a wide range of settings, from high-level OECD and WHO meetings, to TEDx talks, to festivals, to student groups. If you are interested in inviting me to talk, either in person or online, please contact me.

Communication Science

I am a PhD candidate in the Communication and Digital Media group at the University of Erfurt. My project is entitled The Effect of Advertising on Political Values. The main focus is an experimental study testing whether commercial advertising unintentionally influences attitudes towards outgroups by priming certain personal values. The project involves a content analysis of adverts before and after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and survey analysis looking at the links between personal values and political attitudes.

Publications to date:

  • Abdallah S & Jöckel S (2022) ‚Cultivation and the dual process of dangerous and competitive worldviews A theoretical synthesis‘ Communications 47, 450-469, doi: 10.1515/commun-2020-0069
  • Abdallah S (2022) ‚The Relative Importance of Self-Focused and Society-Focused Values in Explaining Political Attitudes in Europe‘ Political Psychology, doi: 10.1111/pops.12856

Happy Planet Index

The global community faces an enormous challenge; improving people’s lives in a way that is sustainable, equitable, and socially just. Measurement can play a central role in meeting this challenge, and changes to the way in which governments measure progress is an urgent priority if we are to increase human well-being and ensure environmental sustainability.”

René Ramírez Gallegos, Former National Secretary for Planning and Development, Ecuador, 2011

The Happy Planet Index measures what matters: sustainable wellbeing for all. It tells us how well nations are doing at achieving long, happy, sustainable lives. It is a simple metric of success based on subjective wellbeing, life expectancy and ecological footprint.

I helped develop the first Happy Planet Index with Nic Marks in 2006, when we both worked at the New Economics Foundation. We have since published four further Happy Planet Indices. In October 2021 in the run up to COP-26, we, working with WEAll (the Wellbeing Economy Alliance), launched the latest edition, calculating the HPI for up to 152 countries over 15 years from 2006 to 2020.

Please contact me for further information about the Happy Planet Index and to book speaking events.