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Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the broadest and most ubiquitous measure of economic performance. But as a gauge of human welfare it is wanting. Many factors which contribute to welfare fall entirely or partially outside GDP.

Worse still, many things which contribute to unhappiness - such as crime, pollution or poor health - can raise GDP, at least in the short term.

Thus the Gulf of Mexico oil spill generated a vast clean-up operation and a huge amount of work for lawyers and local and national government - which added to measured GDP. Conversely a permanent end to criminal activity would create a GDP-depressing fall in spending on the police, household security and purchases needed to replace damaged or stolen goods.

So in judging human welfare we need to look beyond GDP. When we do so there is evidence of a broad-based improvement in the quality of life, especially for those in Western countries. Here are some examples drawn mainly from the UK.

Air quality is improving. Levels of the main air pollutants in the UK have declined sharply in the last four decades. The use of cleaner, more efficient energy generation technologies have contributed to a 69% decline in nitrogen oxide emissions since 1970, a 96% decline in sulphur dioxide emissions and 70% fall in particulate matter emissions.

The level of hip fractures - a debilitating and painful injury - has been falling. US data show that hip fracture rates have fallen by 15-20% a decade over the past 30 years. The use of better osteoporosis drugs and basic preventive techniques such as classes for at-risk patients, installing rubber mats in showers and improved de-icing salt have all played a part.

Suicide rates have declined across most of the developed world. In the UK the incidence of suicide has fallen from 39 per 100,000 people in 1960 to 11.4 people by 2012. Increased awareness of mental health issues and improvements in care seem to be behind the decline in suicide rates.

Job satisfaction is on the rise (at least for Brits). The British Social Attitudes Survey found that, in 2015, 71% of people in work said they have a "good job", up from 62% in 2005 and 57% in 1989. The proportion who say they would carry on working even if they didn't need the money has risen from 49% in 2005 to 62%.

The overall crime rate for England and Wales is at its lowest level since current records began more than 25 years ago. The crime rate has declined by 40% since its peak in 1984. The murder rate has virtually halved since 2003, though in 2015 it rose, along with other violent crimes, prompting speculation that the long decline in rates of violent crime may be coming to an end.

Global poverty is declining. The World Bank has been tracking global poverty rates since the 1990s. Defining extreme poverty as the proportion of the population living on less than $1.90 a day, at constant prices, the World Bank estimated that 37.1% of the World's population lived in poverty in 1990. By 2012 this had fallen to 12.7%. According to World Bank projections the number of people living in extreme poverty is likely to fall to under 10% of the global population in 2015.

Younger people are leading safer, more stable lives. Drug use by under-24s in England and Wales has nearly halved in the last 20 years. Teenage pregnancies have declined sharply and are at their lowest level since 1969. Drinking and smoking are increasingly out of favour with younger people.

The number of fatal injuries at work has continued to decline. Improved health and safety measures, employee training and significant technological improvements have all played a part. There were 144 workplace fatalities in 2015-16, down 42% on ten years earlier.

Britain's roads are getting safer. From a post-war peak of almost 8,000 in the late 1960s road deaths in Britain declined to 1,732 in 2015. Despite sharply higher levels of car ownership better road design, improved driver training and a transformed approach to drink driving have brought down the toll of road deaths and injuries.

It is, of course, possible that roads are getting safer and the air is cleaner but such improvements are not making people happier. Intuitively there ought to be a link, but it is hard to prove. Measuring happiness or wellbeing is, in any case, tricky. The UK's Office of National Statistics solution is to ask a large sample of people each year about how they feel about their welfare. The survey asks respondents to rate their life satisfaction and whether what they do in life is worthwhile along with two specific questions: how happy, and how anxious, were you yesterday?

Wellbeing on these measures has risen since the survey was first asked in 2011, suggesting that people in the UK feel that their lives are getting better. The proportion of people reporting very high levels of happiness increased from 31.9% to 34.3% over the 5 year period. The proportion reporting the lowest levels of happiness fell from 10.7% to 8.8%. Women consistently show higher levels of life satisfaction and happiness than men, although women also report higher levels of anxiety. People living in London were least confident of any region that the things they do in life are worthwhile.

Much of what makes society better and people happier falls outside GDP. And when you look at those things many aspects of everyday life in Western countries are getting better. Such a thought offers a counter to current anxieties about the economic future.