LEVELS of happiness in the UK have stalled in the past year, failing to rise for the first time in five years, despite improvements in the economy and employment, say researchers at the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The researchers, who have been recording levels of well-being for five years, said that they were surprised by the lull in levels of happiness among the population. The data was collected before the EU referendum and its associated fall-out.
Their survey of 158,000 people showed no improvement in the past 12 months in ratings on happiness, anxiety, and the feeling that things were worth while, although “life satisfaction” levels had increased. Previous data had showed a year-by-year improvement in all areas.
The director of well-being at ONS, Abbie Self, said: “Life satisfaction has increased over the past year, which is what one might expect given the improvements seen in the economy and record high employment during that period.”
People living in London were the least happy, experiencing lower-than-average ratings in the areas surveyed. Meanwhile people in Northern Ireland were the most happy. They rated their happiness at 7.7 out of 10, compared with 7.5 in England, and 7.4 in Scotland and Wales.
Those taking part in the survey were asked four questions: how satisfied are you with your life nowadays; to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worth while; how happy did you feel yesterday; and how anxious did you feel yesterday? People were asked to respond on a scale of one to ten. Researchers found that the responses to the last three questions had not changed since last year’s survey.
There has been a decrease, however, in the number of people reporting the most unhappiness, and a rise in those reporting very high levels of happiness — a nine or a ten on the scale.
Women tend to report higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction, but they also reported higher levels of anxiety, perhaps a reflection of their higher levels of social connection and involvement, the statisticians suggest.