In 2015 Northamptonshire County Council commissioned M·E·L Research to carry out a large scale Mental Wellbeing survey across Northamptonshire. It was the first survey of its kind, commissioned by the County Council, with the aims to understand the mental wellbeing level of its adult population, and to further identify potential wellbeing inequalities existing in its local communities. The ultimate goals of the research were to use evidence to make recommendations to Northamptonshire Health and Wellbeing Board on improving the health and wellbeing of the population of Northamptonshire; responding to needs; informing services and targeting areas for improvement.
Given the sensitivity of the subject matter, the chosen methodology was a face-to-face doorstep interview using a computer aided personal interview (CAPI) process and electronic tablet device. This allowed respondents the flexibility to complete sections of the survey themselves, should they have deemed questions to be particularly personal. In addition to demographic and general satisfaction questions, standardised survey items to measure mental well-being were included in the questionnaire, i.e. Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS), the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) personal wellbeing questions, and the New Economics Foundation’s (NEF) social trust question. Overall 5,498 interviews were completed for this study.
A full written report was produced summarise the key findings emerging from the survey data and comparing results with national studies e.g. the ONS 2014/15 Annual Population Survey and the ONS Wellbeing Measures published in September 2015. ACORN analysis was also carried out using ACORN classifications to provide further insights into the characteristics of neighbourhoods and sub-groups in which wellbeing inequalities may lie. An in-depth investigation of the survey data obtained from the interview questions was also conducted to identify factors that are associated with low levels of mental wellbeing in Northamptonshire with the prime aim of highlighting any potential wellbeing inequalities within the local populations. The findings were presented centring around 6 key determinants identified by the ONS: our relationships, health, what we do, where we live, personal finance, and education and skills.
To disseminate the learning further, M·E·L Research co-hosted a workshop with Northamptonshire County Council at LARIA Annual Conference 2017, themed ‘Hibernate or Innovate? Research and Intelligence in Challenging Times’. In the workshop participants would learn from this case study how effective data gathering and analysis has resulted in better intelligence, and how this has been used to improve health and wellbeing and reduce inequalities.