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July 2012
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Measuring Britain’s Happiness – The First Results

Posted by: Alex Linley

 

The sun is shining and temperatures across the UK are soaring. It’s an auspicious day, then, for the Office for National Statistics to release some of the early findings from their first Subjective Well-being Annual Population Survey.

 

The data don’t really contain any surprises from what has been established in the happiness literature to date. For example, most people are happy, with average scores around 7 on the 10-point scale. People are happier if they are married, have a job, and own their own home.

 

Looking at the geographical distribution of happiness – always a favourite with the media – the top-ranked areas are Orkney & Shetland, and Rutland (which I fully support – it was where I married my wife!), while the lowest ranked were North Ayrshire and Blaenau Gwent.

 

So, as well as telling us about our GDP, the ONS has now made a start on telling us about our GNH (Gross National Happiness). But while the ONS can tell us about how happy we were, more open questions remain about how government in general – and our own actions as individuals in particular – may help or hinder our own happiness.

 

A major goal of positive psychology has been to increase the mean levels of happiness in the world. To this end, working with one of our major organisational clients, we will shortly be launching a research project to explore simple actions that people might take to increase their own happiness. It’s one contribution to seeing if we can increase the mean happiness of the British people.

 

Perhaps next year the ONS will be able to shed some light on whether or not we have succeeeded ;-)

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