Here’s to your good health (and job) – the things that really matter to us

Survey reveals Britons’ most important factors regarding personal well-being

Good health and employment are more important to Britons’ sense of well-being than their relationships, according to research.

People who reported having “very bad” health rated their life satisfaction 2.4 points (out of 10) lower than those in good health, a study from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found. This makes health the most significant factor in people’s happiness.

Those unemployed for between two and four years had life-satisfaction scores 1.2 points lower on average than people in a permanent job with which they are content.

Being in a stable relationship was the third-most important factor in a person’s well-being, some way behind health and work. Single people rated their happiness on average 0.4 points lower than those who are married or in civil partnerships.

Living alone has a poor effect on  personal well-being, regardless of relationship status, according to the  ONS. Households where two or more people live together give higher ratings for their life satisfaction than people living alone.

David Cameron asked the ONS to launch the research project in November 2010, saying it was “the business of government” to understand well-being.

The initial findings of the ONS well-being survey were published last summer and found that three-quarters of Britons aged 16 and over rated their overall life satisfaction as seven or more out of 10.

This latest paper, called Measuring national well-being – what matters most to personal well-being?, gave a more detailed analysis of what makes Britons happy. The research is based on data from the Annual Population Survey of around 165,000 UK households from April 2011 to March 2012.

Dawn Snape, an ONS researcher and co-author of the report, said: “We can say from these figures that health has the biggest impact on ratings for personal well-being… On earnings, we can say that people who earn more have higher life satisfaction than people who earn less, but it doesn’t affect happiness or anxiety levels.”

Race also played a part in people’s perceptions of their own happiness. For example, black people’s life-satisfaction rating was 0.5 points lower on average than white people’s.

Juliet Michaelson, a well-being researcher at the New Economics Foundation, said: “The fact that overall well-being is significantly lower for black people and people of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Arab origin is really important. There’s something about the experience of people in these groups that makes them feel their lives are going less well overall and this is something that the Government should be taking very seriously.”

Those who have a named religion rate their life satisfaction 0.1 points higher and their “happiness yesterday” 0.2 points higher on average than those who do not.

Living in a family unit also has an impact on happiness. Households with dependent children have a higher sense that what they do in life is worthwhile, giving ratings 0.2 points higher on average than those with none.

People’s sense of choice and contentment with their situation is also associated with personal well-being, according to the ONS. For example, those who are employed but want a different or additional job have lower levels of personal well-being than employed people who are not looking for another job.

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