The most satisfied person in England is a middle-aged woman in good health, with a job, who owns her own home and lives in the rural county of Rutland or the honey-coloured city of Bath, according to the first attempt to measure national wellbeing.

People's perception of their quality of life is affected by where they live and what they do as well as their gender, health, relationships and ethnicity, according to the Office for National Statistics which was asked by the Prime Minister in 2010 to develop a measure of human happiness. The aim is to provide a picture of what makes a successful society as a focus for policy-makers, but critics warn that extra social targets risk intrusion into people's lives.

Initial findings from the ONS survey of 150,000 people show that people in work are more satisfied than those out of work and homeowners are happier than those who rent, and good health is the single most important ingredient of satisfaction.

Three quarters of respondents said they are satisfied and 80 per cent said their lives were worthwhile. Satisfaction is highest among people of Indian origin and lowest among Afro -Caribbeans.

Women are happier than men but suffer more anxiety. Satisfaction is highest during the teens and twenties, declines during the child-rearing years and then rise again from the late fifties onwards. It was higher in the south of the country and lower in the north.

"Miserable in Manchester, woeful in Watford, beautiful in Bath," said an ONS researcher.