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 945.

    "UKIP finally starting the demise of the EU travesty"


    The only demise in which UKIP could possibly figure is that of the UK.

    As the £/euro rate shows, the EU will prosper with or without the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 944.

    @ JDT

    "I do not conern myself with such triffling matters. Better that those that cannot survive the cold dark realities of life, albeit from ailment or ideological paralysis, perish of starvation along with their offspring. The many must work on behalf of the few, only to maintain incentive to become the few. Such is the the underpinning of labour supply"

    Thomas Malthus

  • rate this

    Comment number 943.

    Happiness a cigar called Hamlet, a mild cigar from Benson and Hedges.

    Warning. Smoking cigars may cause permanent damage to your lungs and trigger a long lingering painful death.


  • Comment number 942.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 941.

    I am not happy at all. We still have the Chuckle Brothers (aka Cameron and Clegg) destroying the country even though neither received a mandate to govern at the last election.

    We still have Iain Duncan Smith sending terminally sick people back to work (as they are apparently fit) only for them to die a few weeks later.

    And Ant and Dec are still on TV.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 940.

    The ONS noted that while most of the population had hundreds of valid reasons for their continued depression; including crime, EDL marches and Theresa May, they did point out that when 0.01% of the population were surveyed about the Olympics a slim majority said the two-week sports day was OK. Mrs Miggins, an interviewee, stated “The Olympics were great, but where was the egg and spoon race?”

  • rate this

    Comment number 939.

    Mustn't grumble...

  • rate this

    Comment number 938.

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

    Hey government - if you want to improve people's well-being...






    Then I'll smile.

    (BBC - stop removing my valid & harmless comments)

  • rate this

    Comment number 937.

    Happiness is having the best domain name on the block.

    And great family and friends :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 936.

    I wish I had never had the opportunity to live and work abroad as I now can never be like the millions of British who haven't and are therefore blissfully happy in the ignorance of what an awful country this is to live in compared to countries like France, Germany, Holland, Spain, Norway, Finland and Canada. Why then did I not settle permanently elsewhere?

    Cos I'm British and enjoy being grumpy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 935.

    So you want to be happy?
    Don't you know
    Happy is, never enough.

    Jesus Jones

  • rate this

    Comment number 934.

    I'm a tincy wincy bit happier hearing that criminal Vicky Pryce has lost her official honour.

    I really hope no one buys her book.

  • rate this

    Comment number 933.

    @ JDT.

    "Although a world of free markets will punish the pawns for indulging in corruption. The architects of the game will enjoy their undue rewards, free from such concerns. In practice, it is the architects who fear regulation and benefit from the plight of others"

    von Mises

  • rate this

    Comment number 932.

    Sent ANOTHER email to BBC....

    Still no HYS (for disability bedroom tax story) but you have one for the "happiness" non-story? I'm increasingly dismayed at how much the BBC seems to be becoming more and more the Government's mouthpiece

  • rate this

    Comment number 931.

    Your you for real?? That's the most ridiculous thing I've heard all month lol.

  • rate this

    Comment number 930.

    I would like to know where this survey was undertaken & the questions that were asked to cover the whole spectrum of a persons life.
    AS for the olympics being part reason for this so called extra happiness (unless they asked the athletes) its just propaganda put out so gov't can justify the expense to the taxpayer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 929.

    If Socialists are in full screech / bleat mode, you can say with 100 % truth something is going right. be happy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 928.

    Not in the South Wales Valleys. The line of jobless young folk is still longer than your arm and winding down the street!

    Being happier in London has nothing to do with rest of UK.

    Unelected misgovernment getting the economy going again would be best way to make people happy? But fat chance of that with this crowd of half wit misfits in charge?

    No electoral mandate to govern?

  • rate this

    Comment number 927.

    @ JDT. The Irony that the angriets person on these forums posts on a story about Happiness going up. This brings me happiness.

    "If Socialism is the noose the poor are given to hang themselves, then capitalism is the noose the rich will use to hang the poor directly"

    Ron Paul

  • rate this

    Comment number 926.

    I will be much happier when the Leveson trials start.

    Ding Dong


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