Londoners – the least happy people in Britain

Feb 28, 2012

Wellbeing survey shows women are happier than men, part-time work is preferable, and middle-age is the pits

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IT'S LONG been said that money can't buy you happiness, and the results of a nationwide study appear to back that up. A survey has found that people living in London, the richest part of the country, are the least satisfied and most anxious in Britain, while those in Northern Ireland, the poorest region, are happiest.

The findings are contained in the first 'wellbeing survey' of the UK, which was released today by the Office of National Statistics. It is based on 80,000 responses to a questionnaire sent out last year that asked people how satisfied they were with their lives and how worthwhile they thought they they were.

It also asked how happy people had been the day before they answered the questions and also how anxious they had felt.

Preliminary results, based on 4,000 responses, came out last year but the findings released today are much wider. Charles Seaford of the New Economics Foundatins said the findings were "a valuable resource both for policy-makers and for those whose role it is to hold government to account".

Here's what the survey discovered:

* Britons are almost "three-quarters satisfied". The average life satisfaction score was 7.39 out of ten. For happiness the average score was 7.3.

* Londoners are the most anxious people in the country. Asked to score their anxiety levels out of 10 they averaged 3.52, while the national average was 3.19. They were also the least satisfied with their lives scoring 7.2 against the average of 7.39.

* Northern Ireland is the most positive part of the country. It scored highest for satisfaction, happiness and feelings of being worthwhile. Scotland and south west England were the least anxious.

* Women are happier. Compared to men, women are marginally more satisfied with their lives, think the things they do are more worthwhile and are happier. However, Britain’s womenfolk did admit to feeling slightly more anxious than men. They averaged an anxiety score of 3.29 against 3.09 for men.

* It's not great being middle-aged. People aged 16 to 19 are the most satisfied with their lives, those aged 65 to 69 believe their lives are most worthwhile and those aged 75 to 79 were the happiest. The highest stress scores went to the age groups between 40 and 59 and they scored lowest in the other three categories.

* Is racism still a problem? People from ethnic minorities reported lower levels of satisfaction and happiness than white people. Those from a black, African, Caribbean or black British background scored lowest for life satisfaction and happiness. Bangladeshis reported the highest levels of anxiety.

* Marriage is a venerable institution. People who have tied the knot are happier, more satisfied and find life more worthwhile than other groups. The divorced and separated scored lowest on all three counts.

* Working helps. Those in work feel their lives are more worthwhile, and are happier and more satisfied than the unemployed, with two exceptions. Students and the retired both had higher levels of satisaction. But too much work might not be a good thing, the most satisfied only worked part-time.

* Retirement is relaxing. Surprisingly, perhaps, students feel more anxious than those in employment. But the retired are the least anxious of all groups with a rating of just 2.87 out of ten.

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