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

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

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Manager - OTE £40,000

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This web-based lead generation ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Benedict Cumberbatch attends a special screening of his latest film The Imitation Game  

Benedict Cumberbatch race row: What's the actual difference between 'coloured' and 'person of colour'?

Matthew Norman
Pressure is growing on Chris Grayling to abandon the Government bid to advise Saudi Arabia on running its prisons (Getty)  

What in sanity’s name is Chris Grayling doing in the job of Justice Secretary?

Matthew Norman
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore