We've never had it so good (at least compared with the neighbours)

From health and wealth to working hours, a study finds life in Britain not so bad after all

Fatter we may be, not to mention more scared of going out at night, but the people of Britain can take solace in the knowledge that we work shorter hours than our counterparts abroad and are among the richest.

A survey of modern life found that people in the UK work an average of 1,646 hours a year, 93 hours less than the average for all 34 countries analysed by the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Though it fared badly for obesity, with the worst rates in Europe, Britain came fifth in terms of wealth in the Better Life Index, released yesterday, and has an above average life expectancy of 79.7 years.

As for the rather more subjective measure of happiness, however, the country fell pretty much in the middle. Despite the proportion of Britons saying that they are satisfied with their lives now reading at 68 per cent, 9 per cent above the OECD average, the UK still ranked a rather middling 15th against competitors.

It is this last assessment that will perhaps provoke the most debate, as assessing our level of happiness appears to have become a modern preoccupation.

The results of David Cameron's national well-being project are expected in July, following a consultation by the Office of National Statistics costing £2m, and last month saw the launch of the Action For Happiness campaign by the Young Foundation. Consider also the work of World Database of Happiness in Rotterdam and samples taken daily by polling companies, and it is easy to see why chartered psychologist Mark Millard says the happiness business is booming.

"Thousands of people are phoned up every day to measure this," he said. "There are even people who monitor Twitter and blogs for emotional words and plot how often those are used."

The importance of charities and governments alike in taking note of happiness measurements, according to the director of Action For Happiness, Mark Williamson, is to realise that it is not just economic factors that determine the success of a society.

"These surveys show it is possible for nations to be happier than the UK without requiring us to get richer," he said. "There's too much effort focused on the creation of wealth rather than the improvement of well-being."

The conundrum is that happiness is a tougher factor to improve than some might think.

"We each have a different capacity to be happy – some of us are just born gloomy, miserable buggers," said Mr Millard. "There's a genetic component. Fifty per cent of your happiness is determined by genetics. The quickest way to be happy is make sure you have the right parents."

Nor does having a country full of happy people necessarily make for a better society. "People can be seriously unpleasant and dangerous but be quite happy – psychopaths, for example. On balance it probably does make for a better society if you have a lot of happy people, but you can still have people who are happy and downright nasty."

Suggested Topics
Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Travel
travelWhy Japan's love hotels are thriving through an economic downturn
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Sport
Joel jumps over the board...and into a giant hole
footballFrom joy to despair in a matter of seconds
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

    Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

    Email Designer

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

    Psychology Teacher

    £110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

    Food Technology Teacher

    £85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week