Cheer up! Britain is getting happier
Record employment levels lift national mood
AMID all the recent global turmoil and concern over rising violent crime, some cheering news: Britons are happier than ever.
Official statistics reveal the UK’s happiness levels and general appreciation of our lives increased last year, despite a spate of terrorist attacks.
In fact, we are more contented now than at any point since the well-being measures were first published seven years ago.
The Office for National Statistics report on well-being in 2017 follows research last week from the London School of Economics that linked being happy to having a job – suggesting Britain’s record low levels of unemployment could be behind the bonhomie. An international panel of academics said peace of mind is produced by economic growth, with the unemployment rate the most important factor the public considers.
The latest calculations are based on well-being questions in ONS surveys, which asked people to rank out of ten how happy they were on the previous day, to what extent they regarded their lives as worthwhile, how satisfied they were with life, and how anxious they were. For 2017, average happiness was calculated at 7.53 out of ten, living worthwhile lives at 7.88, and life satisfaction at 7.69. There was no significant change in anxiety levels, which currently average at 2.91 out of ten, the ONS said.
The country’s rising contentment is largely fuelled by Scotland, where scores increased across the three positive wellbeing indicators. However, there are signs there is a higher proportion of very unhappy and dissatisfied people in Wales. For the UK as a whole, happiness has increased by more than 3 per cent since 2011, according to the figures, with similar upward moves for the other positive categories. The only fall in happiness levels during that period came in 2013.
The ONS report yesterday said: ‘Between the years ending December 2016 and 2017, there were improvements in average ratings of happiness and feeling that the things done in life are worthwhile for the UK overall. There were no significant changes in average ratings of life satisfaction or anxiety. Improvements in worthwhile and happiness ratings in the UK were driven by Scotland,’ the report said, adding that ‘average life satisfaction ratings also improved for Scotland; however, there were no significant changes for ratings of anxiety.’
The ONS said: ‘A larger proportion of people in Wales reported low levels of life satisfaction, worthwhile and happiness compared to the UK average. For example, 4.3 per cent of people in Wales reported a score of nought to four for their worthwhile ratings compared with only 3.4 per cent in the whole of the UK.’
This week has seen a new set of unemployment figures, which show the best employment and unemployment rates since the first half of the 1970s.
The LSE report on happiness last week said that ‘almost to a person, our experts agree that unemployment is the macroeconomic phenomenon most detrimental to national well-being’.