Happiness index: Cheer up, you Chicken Lickens. Disaster isn’t just around the corner

The Olympics, unemployment and longer life expectancy: some indicators why we're slightly happier than last year

Share

This year’s happiness survey from the Office for National Statistics finds that we’re just a bit more cheerful than we were.

No explanation is offered, and it’s not really the job of ONS to provide one, so let me try. We’re marginally happier because many of the doom-laden scenarios that commanded headlines over the last year have not, and may never, come to pass.

Let’s start with the obvious: the Olympics. Instead of the soggy disaster anticipated, we had a full-blown success. From the Opening Ceremony to the food in the athletes’ village to London’s public transport to the GB medal tally, pretty much everything worked.

This time last year there were not-unrelated concerns that high hotel prices and Olympic crowds would drive tourists away. There was a dip in visitors, but spending rose, and this year record throngs are beating a path to our door. What is more, they – and we – have enjoyed what the Met Office has often promised , but never delivered: that elusive “barbecue summer”, which was all the more welcome for this year’s warning about freezing temperatures and eternal rain.

As my next exhibit, I’ll submit the ageing population, otherwise known as the demographic time-bomb. Earlier this month, the University of Cambridge, no less, summarised its latest research findings thus: “Results from two major cohort studies… reveal that the number of people with dementia in the UK is substantially lower than expected because overall prevalence in the 65 and over age group has dropped.” Yes,  dropped, by more than 20 per cent.  In other words, our predictions have been too gloomy.

More research released last week, this time from Harvard, found that longer life expectancy did not mean, as universally feared, that people were ill for longer, but that they were well for longer. “With the exception of the year or two just before death, people are healthier than they used to be,” said David Cutler, the professor who led the study. So, hurray!  We may not need to fret quite so much about the cost of ageing.

Now for some social indicators.  UK unemployment through the recession has disappointed the professional pessimists by stubbornly refusing to soar. Ditto crime, which has fallen substantially. Nor have higher fees put young people off university, including those from “deprived backgrounds”. You may question how some of these figures are compiled, just as you can reasonably ask what sort of jobs people are doing, for how many hours and for what pay. But a country of idlers turning to crime for want of anything better to do this is not.

And finally, some economic figures. Both retail spending (shopping) and mortgage lending are, in the language of the financial press, “bouncing back strongly”. If you really want to carry on doom-mongering, you might observe that higher spending and lending contains menacing hints of “irrational exuberance”. But then, you really would be seeing the cloud in every silver lining. 

What do nurses do all day?

Unreasonably, I was annoyed by a survey in the British Medical Journal Health and Safety (the title says it all), showing that nurses are “forced” to skimp on distributing medicine, pain relief and general TLC. I was annoyed, first, because the figures are three years old. More, though, because a common patient complaint concerns the gaggles of nurses chatting loudly about their personal lives or retreating to offices to do the same. Of course, nurses need their breaks, but I think – and now know – their on-duty time could be better spent.

m.dejevsky@independent.co.uk

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager - Email Marketing Services

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are looking for a highly or...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester

£18000 - £23000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultan...

Recruitment Genius: Plumber

£22000 - £25900 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company is expanding and th...

Recruitment Genius: Corporate Account Manager

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Corporate Account Manager is ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Hollywood: Stop trying to make Superman cool. The world needs a boy scout in blue

Matthew James
A man enjoys the  

If you really want to legalise cannabis, then why on earth would you go and get high in a park?

Peter Reynolds
Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders