Linking health and well-being measures with public policy outcomes in Iceland


Following the collapse of the banking system in 2008, Iceland was one of the OECD countries that went into recession with negative growth in gross domestic product (GDP). In 2007–2009 unemployment rates increased from 2% to 7% (11), the GDP index fell considerably and the national currency lost more than half its value. The collapse resulted in a reconsideration of national values, with increased interest in adopting not only economic but also social and wellbeing indicators for public policies. 

Policy action taken

To limit the negative consequences of the economic crisis on health and wellbeing a series of actions was undertaken. In 2009 a proactive policy called "Iceland 2020" was created to increase well-being by the year 2020. Another action – "Welfare Watch" – systematically monitors the social and financial consequences of the crisis for families and individuals in Iceland and proposes solutions. Social indicators were developed, including health and well-being factors. In 2014 a new ministerial committee on public health, chaired by the prime minister, was established; it involves ministers of health, education and culture, and social affairs and housing. Other ministers also participate as needed.


With the development of the public health policy and action plan, major emphasis is put on including health and wellbeing in all policies and on the creation of a health and well-being impact assessment. One of the main activities is providing support to local governments around the country to become health promoting communities, encouraging them to monitor health and well-being regularly, linking those measures with their policies. Recent evaluations of the consequences of the economic crisis have shown that measures of adult wellbeing indicate a rise again after a small decline just after the collapse. Among adolescents, an increase in well-being was detected between 2000 and 2010 as adolescents were spending more time with their parents and found it easier to get emotional support from them after the collapse.