Most Britons 'satisfied with life'


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The Independent Online

The majority of British people are happy in spite of gloomy economic news and social disorder over the summer, according to new figures.

A study of well-being has shown 76% of people rated themselves as seven out of 10 or more when asked to gauge how satisfied they were with life.

The poll of 4,200 adults carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed the figure rose to 78% when people were asked to rate the extent to which they feel the things they do in life are worthwhile.

A further 73% rated themselves as seven or more out of 10 when asked how happy they felt yesterday.

But more than one in four, or 27%, rated themselves above five out of 10 in a scale where zero rated as "not at all anxious" and 10 rated as "completely anxious" when answering the question "how anxious did you feel yesterday?" compared to more than half, or 57%, with ratings of less than four out of 10.

The findings from continuous polling between April and August - apart from May - are the first set of experimental results on subjective well-being from the ONS following the launch last November of the national well-being programme by David Cameron.

Stephen Hicks, ONS project leader for measuring subjective well-being, said: "We are drawing on a range of measures to encapsulate national well-being measures including the subjective well-being measures that we are publishing today.

"These are early experimental results from our opinions survey but nevertheless they give us an indication of the well-being levels within Great Britain in this case."

People polled in the survey were asked how satisfied they were with life, how happy they felt yesterday, how anxious they felt yesterday and to what extent they felt that the things they do in life are worthwhile.

The results showed that the better a person rated their health, the more likely they were to report higher ratings for life satisfaction, the extent to which the things they do in life are worthwhile and whether they were happy yesterday.

Having a partner was also positively associated with life satisfaction, worthwhile and "happiness yesterday" ratings. Ratings were lower on average for life satisfaction, worthwhileness and happiness yesterday for people who were unemployed than those who were employed or economically inactive.

The results have been released after findings were published in October by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showing the British are one of the world's most satisfied peoples.

The ONS polling was carried out before the grim economic news on jobs and growth announced this week by Chancellor George Osborne and forecasts by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) warning that average household incomes are set to drop by 7.4% in real terms between 2009/10 and 2012/13.

The survey showed younger and older people reported higher levels for life satisfaction, worthwhileness and "happy yesterday" questions on average compared with people in their middle years.

Further questions on satisfaction with different aspects of people's lives were asked in April and June.

Satisfaction with financial situation had the lowest mean score of 6.2 out of 10, followed by satisfaction with work situation at 6.7.

Overall, satisfaction with personal relationships and mental well-being had the highest mean scores at 8.3 out of 10. For people with children, the highest average was for satisfaction with their child or children's well being, at 8.7.

The initial findings come as the ONS prepares to publish a larger survey of 200,000 people next year who will have been asked the same questions.