Press Office

Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

Press Release

Radio 3 survey analyses the happiness of the nation

In a nationwide survey conducted as the government spending review figures came in, BBC Radio 3 has asked the nation what makes it happy.

Marking the launch of Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival – the theme of which is "The Pursuit of Happiness" – the survey has revealed that most people feel money is still the key to happiness.


When asked what caused personal unhappiness, 65% of the 2,000 respondents cited finances – putting it way beyond family problems (32%), health (27%) and the welfare of their children (21%). In addition:

  • 63% of people feel they need a salary of 40k or more to be happy and 68% would need a better salary to make them happier in their employment
  • 88% of those surveyed said that winning the lottery would make them happier
  • Money was the one thing that would make 50% of respondents happier overnight – far outweighing spending more time with family which was the top priority for only 9% of participants, better health (9%) or a new job (8%)

The Facebook Generation vs The Pensioners

The generation gap, loneliness and social status appear to be bigger causes of unhappiness for 16-24s – the so-called "Facebook Generation" – than any other age group.

  • 28% of 16-24s claim loneliness is a cause of personal unhappiness
  • 18% of 16-24s suffer status anxiety compared with only 1% of over 55s
  • But, the over 64s are the most likely to turn to alcohol for comfort with 30% confessing that alcohol cheers them up

Notably, the 64+ age range are also the most concerned about global issues (including poverty and the environment), citing it as the second biggest cause of unhappiness for them after health, while 38% of the 64+ group claimed global issues were a problem – far exceeding the national average of 15%.

On living in Britain

On living in Britain, those in East Anglia and Yorkshire are happiest about where they live (over 80%) with the three biggest reasons being green spaces, good local facilities and a friendly local community.

  • Londoners are the keenest to move abroad with 37% claiming it would make their life happier
  • 41% of London dwellers claim that noise is the main reason for wanting a change and 37% also suggest pollution as another factor
  • 37% of residents in the West Midlands and 32% of those in the North East are unhappy about where they live – making them the least happy residents in Britain. The weather is their biggest gripe
  • Nationally, 36% of people say the weather makes us unhappy

We're a nation of optimists

But as a nation we tend to look on the bright side with the average person in Britain rating their current level of happiness as 6 out of 10. Despite the recent gloom and doom in the news, most of us are optimistic when looking to the future.

  • 78% of people think they will be happier in the future
  • 76% think their children will be happier than they are
  • 69% of Britons are happy in their jobs and 77% are happy about where they live

One last thing…

  • More people find watching television or listening to the radio a bigger pleasure than spending time with their family (59% vs 55%)
  • Chocolate and pizza are the nation's favourite comfort foods with 39% and 28% of respondents respectively claiming these foods cheer them up
  • Despite the nation's passion for DIY and home improvement programmes, these activities are least likely to make people happy with only 26% claiming them to be a source of enjoyment

Abigail Appleton, Head of Speech Programmes at Radio 3, who leads the production of the festival, comments: "It's fascinating to see that money is still prevalent in the pursuit of happiness and we look forward to expanding on some of the questions in this survey during our weekend of lectures and debates."

Notes to Editors

The survey, which was commissioned by Radio 3, was conducted by OnePoll, who surveyed 2,000 respondents proportionally across the regions of the UK.

Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival, now in its fifth year, is taking place from 5-7 November at The Sage Gateshead and aims to examine and celebrate the world of ideas through debates, interviews, specially commissioned radio drama, essays, music and conversation. Among the speakers are Lord Blair, former Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police; children's author Dame Jacqueline Wilson; presenter of Grand Designs, Kevin McCloud; and renowned actress Fiona Shaw.

The first Free Thinking Festival was held in Liverpool in November 2006. Previous contributors have included David Miliband, Brian Eno, Rev Ian Paisley, William Orbit, A S Byatt, Howard Jacobson, Bill Drummond, Tanya Byron, Phil Redmond and Gina McKee.

Radio 3 broadcasts classical music, jazz, world music, arts programmes and drama. Last year Radio 3 broadcast over 600 complete concerts and operas from venues and festivals across the UK and beyond. Radio 3 is the home of the BBC Proms and broadcasts every concert live. It supports composers, writers and new young performers and last year broadcast over 40 new drama productions.


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