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Britain Releases Results of First Annual Well-being Survey

J. Mijin Cha

As part of a commitment to measure well-being and happiness alongside GDP, Britain’s Office of National Statistic conducted a wellbeing population survey that compared happiness and anxiety levels by several demographic factors, including sex, age, and ethnicity. The study included four subjective well-being questions:

  • Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?
  • Overall, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?
  • Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?
  •  Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?

The results were just released and the average level of satisfaction in Britain is 7.4 out of 10. This result seems to be consistent with other indicators, like the OECD Better Life Index, where 75 percent of Britons said they have more positive experiences than negative experiences on average per day. A couple of highlights:

  • Not surprisingly, teenagers and pensioners (retired individuals) experience higher levels of happiness.
  • Forty-five percent of unemployed people rated their life satisfaction below 7 (indicating lower life satisfaction), which was twice as high as that reported by employed people.
  • Having a partner significantly increased satisfaction levels.
  • The highest ratings of lift satisfaction were found in the remote Scottish Isles- the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland Islands.

While much of the data seems intuitive, it is important to have the statistical backing to show why we need to expand our metrics beyond GDP. For instance, the survey shows that people who are unemployed are significantly less satisfied, which could provide the data needed to push for employment programs rather than focusing on austerity measures.

Likewise, people that work less are more happy, indicating that policies encouraging a work-life balance would have strong support. As Cameron said when explaining the initiative, “Wellbeing can't be measured by money or traded in markets. It's about the beauty of our surroundings, the quality of our culture and, above all, the strength of our relationships. Improving our society's sense of wellbeing is, I believe, the central political challenge of our times."