Mind the happiness gap
I read a quote recently which was scrawled across a table in a trendy London pub. It read: ‘The happiest of people don’t have the best of everything, they simply make the best of everything.’ Minor vandalism aside, these were wise words indeed. But is this true, or is there a lot more to it?
According to statistics from the World Data of Happiness the United Kingdom is, as a whole, fairly happy. We scored 7.1 out of a possible 10 in the surveys which indicate average happiness across different nations. We weren’t top, but we were by no means bottom. Indeed we are, in general, very fortunate here in the UK. We have a welfare state, a democracy, no civil war, the NHS, and access to clean, safe water. But is it enough to make us happy?
Overall, according to recent survey, wellbeing rates in the UK have improved leading up to the year 2016. We apparently all have slightly more disposable income, unemployment is slightly lower and healthy life expectancy is increasing. However, according to statistics and survey results published by MIND and The Guardian, depression and anxiety still affects as many as 1 in 5 adults here in the UK. And although it seems as though poverty rates are falling, the survey results from the last Happiness Index showed that more people are finding it difficult to manage financially, which is a worrying trend that is often overlooked.
According to the survey results from 2012 about life satisfaction, the UK is a complex make-up of differing happiness levels and indicators. Overall, the survey showed that we were fairly satisfied in this country, and that largely satisfaction rates weren’t linked to finances (measured in GDP). For example, after the 2008 recession GDP fell dramatically, but satisfaction rates sharply increased. Perhaps as a country we may feel content overall, but are we happy in ourselves?
Happiness is subjective. It can be transient, temporary or long-standing. Whether or not a person says they are happy depends entirely upon the moment you choose to ask them. Of course politics, terrorist threats, recessions and natural disasters all have an effect upon us, but it’s interesting that not one of these things can be solely identified as a trigger to improve or deplete our overall nation’s happiness.
What the surveys show though is that there IS a happiness gap in certain areas of society. People in Northern Ireland were, on average, the most satisfied, and people with more than one offspring who completed the survey also said they generally felt more worthwhile than those who had one or no children. They survey also showed a significant variation in happiness rates among different ethnic groups, and there was a strong link between long term employment and overall happiness. Finally, women said they felt generally more satisfied and happier than men, yet were more anxious than men. So, according to the online polls, if you’re a single unemployed male with no children, you may well be at risk of falling into the happiness gap.
I feel the figures are a cause for celebration in some areas, yet we cannot overlook the representation of those who aren’t happy. Whether it’s a better job, better treatment for mental health illnesses or just a better social life – everyone is entitled to have the chance to be happy.
Looking back at the global statistics, it’s Costa Rica who came top of the happiness ranking in the world. Here are a few reasons why. They have no army (they spend the money instead on education and healthcare), they have a hugely environmentally conscious nation, they eat more fresh food than we do and they take pride in a slower sense of life. (What’s more, they have a culture of forgiveness, and there is a popular saying that says arguments should last no longer than 3 days.) We could learn a few things from the Costa Ricans. But in the meantime – let’s try and help out those who we know who may be at risk of falling into the happiness gap. After all, we as individuals are much more than simple statistics.
What do you think? Do you think we are a happy nation? Or have we got a lot to learn? Join the discussion on Facebook and let us know your thoughts! Plus, don’t forget to have your say and earn cash in your spare time in our latest paid surveys at Opinion Outpost UK.