Happiness index shows 'small improvement' in 2013, ONS says

London Olympics opening ceremony The ONS said the London 2012 Olympics may boosted people's morale

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A UK-wide well-being survey has found "small improvements" in people's happiness over the year.

The proportion of people rating their life satisfaction as seven or more out of 10 rose from 75.9% to 77.0%, the Office for National Statistics said.

It said the Olympics and Diamond Jubilee may have "influenced people's assessment of their... well-being".

The survey is carried out to help the government develop policies to improve people's well-being.

The ONS also compared its data from 2007-2011 with European Union figures for that period and found that the British were happier than the French, Germans and Italians.

The UK ranked 10th for life satisfaction out of 27 EU countries, according to the European Quality of Life Survey, with an average rating of 7.3 out of 10 in 2011.

The ONS said the UK's rating was unchanged between 2007 and 2011, showing a "picture of stability" in contrast to a decline in happiness in many EU countries.

Chart showing happiness over time in the UK
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It also showed a small reduction in anxiety levels, with the proportion of people rating their anxiety at a higher level of six or more out of 10 falling from 21.8% to 20.9%.

Women rated their anxiety levels higher than men. The average anxiety rating for women is 3.1 compared with 2.9 for men.

Yet on balance, women were found to have higher life satisfaction, consider their activities to be more worthwhile and rate their happiness slightly higher than men.

People aged 45 to 54 were the most dissatisfied, while younger people rated their happiness above average and retired people were the most content age group.

Chart showing UK happiness by age

Married couples or those in civil partnerships rated their life satisfaction highest, with the average score at 7.8 out of 10. The ONS pointed out that this was higher than for cohabiting couples who reported an average of 7.6 out of 10.

Widowed and single people rated their life satisfaction lower than those in couples, at an average of 7.3 out of 10 and 7.2 out of 10 respectively.

Happiness by relationship status

Average life satisfaction, 2012-13

Status Score*

*Life satisfaction rated 0-10. Source: ONS

Married/Civil partnerships










However, divorcees or separated people rated their life satisfaction lowest, at an average of 6.8 out of 10.

Bank holiday

The ONS said the reason for the small uptick in the nation's well-being between 2011/12 and 2012/13 was "not fully understood at this stage".

Though measuring happiness was "complex", the ONS said the factors most associated with personal well-being were health, employment situation and relationship status.

The survey found no significant changes in average ratings for life satisfaction for any of the self-reported health groups or among unemployed people - despite improvements in the labour market.

It did however identify an improvement in average ratings for life satisfaction among people in all relationship statuses.

The ONS said that over the past year, the UK had celebrated several special events, such as the Queen's Diamond Jubilee which included a special bank holiday and the 2012 Summer Olympic and Paralympic games.

Glenn Everett, programme director for measuring national well-being at the ONS, said the events may have boosted well-being because they were perceived as "one-off", "once-in-a-lifetime" events.

Ellie Simmonds Paralympics golden girl Ellie Simmonds with her gold medal for the women's 400-metre freestyle

"The other part is that Britain did well in the Olympics and the Paralympics," he said.

The first well-being survey was released by the ONS in 2012. Prime Minister David Cameron described it then as crucial to finding out what the government can do to "really improve lives" - but Labour ridiculed the survey as a "statement of the bleeding obvious".

The government maintained that it wanted to take into account quality of life alongside its "key priorities" of creating economic growth, jobs and opportunities.

A spokesman for the Cabinet Office said: "Finding out what will really improve lives and acting on it is important and having evidence will help us to find the best ways of doing so. Today's figures published by ONS are a welcome further step towards developing trusted and accepted national statistics for well-being to inform our decisions."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    Well it could not have got much worse could it!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    Cameron triumphs at the Olympics, he triumphs at the Tour de France 2 years running. He was pivotal to the birth of Prince George and made the Diamond Jubilee possible. Now with a Wimbledon Championship under his belt he is a match for the achievements of the Kim Il Jong dynasty and could easily beat Putin in a fight. Of course we are happy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    I would be most happy if this survey was asking the real questions. Cameron's crew aren't interested in our 'Happiness', only in how far they can rip off the Country without causing us to revolt and jettison their company profits. Policy decisions are not made by surveys. I thought we made them by electing a government who should act in our interests! Silly me! How naive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    More propaganda

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    What do they take us for? "Happiness shows a small improvement"?! Considering they started the survey when we were in a recession and when they were making deep cuts into anything that mattered, the only way is of course IS going to be up. It only takes a sunny day to lift our spirits, and yet this government will claim credit for it. What a pathetic bunch Cameron and his cronies are!

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    Not normally one to comment on articles being pointless, but in this case I'll make an exception.

    The content of this article is vapid. How can you numerically quantify happiness over a year-long period? Day to day, we are beset by billions of truly random events that affect our sense wellbeing, some a lot, some a little.

    Meaningless tosh - can I comment on something factual please?

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    Dear BBC,

    Last week the 'UK' thought the Olympic £9bn was good value.
    Today the 'UK' are happier than last year.

    I have live in the 'UK' for 41 yrs & 1 day, since birth - you have not asked my oppinion on either subject - so please stop quoting what you assume is my answer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    Really? I think its the opposite Lies, dammed lies and statistics.

    Our income has dropped over 40% in the last year, we only just make enough to cover BASIC bills both myself and my wife work FULL time and all of our disposable income goes on childcare costs and ever rising bills

    This is not what the WORKING CLASSES are feeling, this is what the rich people are feeling as they are getting richer

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    Survey for April 2012 to March 2013. Who completed these surveys, from which social class and where were they based? Did those who can't read English or wont read participate? Were blind or partial sighted people fairly included or the severely disabled or those with learning difficulties? Were those living in care and nursing homes asked or the homeless? The ONS does not liberate on that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Utter clap trap !!

    Who did they ask? If you ask them same questions in a busy city like Manchester Im sure the results would be very different.

    Ive not had a pay rise in over 4 years and can afford just to "exist" , cant buy clothes, go on holiday, go for meals in a pub, etc etc

    Can only just afford to sit on the computer for entertainment So My answer would be very different.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    98 paul50
    I agree. There's articles on the BBC website on health, war criminals living in the UK (is Blair one of them?) and no opportunity is given to comment, but we can comment on a non-story.
    By the way I'm deliriously happy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    All surveys are loaded.

    I suspect that this survey is as incompetant , baseless and worthless in factual reliability as the surveys that government use to deceive UK public over immigration numbers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    Where do they find these people ?.Is this survey done in England, This survey is just a waste of money.
    These people must be living in cloud cuckoo land. Or they people from other European Country,s,

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    So in this article it's all the fault of the left. Those right wingers were perfectly happy until you commie hippy treehuggers got here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    The perils of such a subjective set of measurements is that it can't be verified and is massively open to abuse. You thought it was bad the way that GCSE's were manipulated to go up and up ever year - you ain't seen nothing yet! I guarantee that this score will ALWAYS go up - every single year...

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    Lies, damned lies and statistics. Why do they continue to "measure" performance in so many aspects of our lives? It is because it is possible to collect, process and represent data using computers; but it is invariably a case of "garbage in and garbage out" even though it may be immaculately displayed. Scrap all this crap and the army of so-called managers would be stripped of their tools.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    Britain is today as a relative statement of how we're getting used to life under a coalition government focused on backwards EU debates, internet censorship and introverted Tory propaganda


    Yeah, what we need are Labour and the left back in charge for some more wild spending and wild immigration of 3rd world cultures.

    That worked out well last time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    "Anybody not smiling will be transported to the Salt Mines. Welcome to Britain, comrades"

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    @89 Doom
    Thanks for that at least we know now someone really took part.
    Was the survey slanted in anyway ? Were you happy, would you class your self as an average UK citizen i.e not chortling between sips of bolly and spoonfuls of caviar ?
    I can truthfully say that in 59 years I have never been surveyed for anything govt sanctioned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    I'm happy today becaues my wife saw our female cat preparing to use my trousers as a toilet. I will no longer have to put up with being told that the culprit could be the male.


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