Simon Kelner: Happiness is a warm survey, unless you're in Arran

 

Share
Related Topics

What is it about the Isle of Arran? Why is everyone so unhappy there? In the latest stage of David Cameron's quest to measure the happiness of the nation, the Office for National Statistics has just published a map of the British Isles showing levels of general contentment. There are not that many surprises: people in urban areas generally have a higher level of anxiety and unhappiness than those who live in the country. Someone in Hackney feels a greater sense of anxiety than someone in Haverfordwest. I know. Astonishing, isn't it? But when you look in detail at the happiness map of Britain, the Isle of Arran – alongside the West Midlands, Greater London and the Glasgow area – is painted in the darkest of hues.

Surely, this cannot be right. I don't know very much about the Isle of Arran, but have learnt from its tourist blurb that it has "a remarkable diversity of landscapes and seascapes" and that its "pretty villages... are complemented by a rugged and mountainous interior in the north and green rolling hills and woodlands in the south". Blimey. Doesn't sound like a recipe for unhappiness to me. They should try the Tube when its 90 degrees in the shade, or being stuck in traffic in central London while an Olympic plutocrat speeds past on his way to a Coca-Cola-sponsored junket.

Of course, it could be that Arran is included in a more urbanised unitary area, or maybe the survey just caught the islanders at the wrong time. One of the four questions asked – to more than 160,000 respondents – was: "Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?"

I am sure students of applied statistics will say there is a very good reason for framing the question this way and I know the purpose is to give a snapshot of the nation's emotional health, but isn't happiness about the present rather than the past? Shouldn't we be encouraging people to live in the moment?

In truth, I can't really remember how I felt yesterday and in a way it doesn't matter. Happiness may indeed be something that, in the way of footballers, you take one day at a time, but I don't think it can be accurately measured that way. Labour has rubbished the survey as "a statement of the bleeding obvious", and many of the results are indeed predictable. Mr Cameron has said that this work was crucial to discovering what his government could do to "really improve lives", but I am finding it hard to see how this study can translate into policy. The ONS said "understanding people's views of well-being is an important addition to existing statistics and has potential uses in the policy-making process", but I worry that this is just empty sentiment.

This survey is endlessly fascinating – who knew that women are both happier and more anxious than men? Make your own conclusions – but I think that, in the end, it plays more to our voyeuristic tendencies than our desire for change.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

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

Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough, Cam...

Ashdown Group: C# Developer - (C#, VB.Net, SQL, Git, TDD)

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Developer (C#, VB & ASP.Net, SQL Server, TSQL) - Pe...

Ashdown Group: Business Relationship Manager

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Business Relationship Manager - Enfield, North Lond...

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
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
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
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea