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March 28, 2012
  Mapping wellbeing
A preliminary map of the nation's happiness is taking shape following analysis of initial well-being results collected by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It seems we are a relatively content people. The average life satisfaction score was 7.4 out of 10; the average 'life is worthwhile' score was 7.6 out of 10; 'happiness yesterday' averaged at 7.3 out of 10; whilst the average 'anxiety yesterday' score was 3.2 out of 10.
The ONS began including four subjective well-being questions from last April in its Annual Population Survey of 80,000 UK citizens aged over 16 (for background see 'News', January 2011: 'National well-being and the wandering mind'). Respondents were asked how satisfied they were with their lives; to what extent their life is worthwhile; how happy they felt yesterday; and how anxious they felt yesterday (all scored 1 - 10). The questions are designed to tap three aspects of subjective well-being: evaluative, eudenomic (people's sense of meaning and purpose), and experiential. The initial data was collected from April to September last year.
There were age and gender differences in the results. Women scored marginally higher then men on all four questions, especially life feeling worthwhile. Life satisfaction and life worthwhile scores were higher for younger and older participants relative to middle-aged respondents. Conversely, anxiety was higher among the middle-aged.
In terms of geographic differences across the UK, subjective well-being scores were highest in Northern Ireland (7.6 out of 10 compared with 7.5 for Scotland and 7.4 for both England and Wales). Within England, well-being was lowest in London and the West Midlands and highest in the South East and South West. Anxiety yesterday was highest in London compared with all other UK regions.
Other observations to emerge from the initial data: people living in a household with children rated life as more worthwhile, but showed no advantages in life satisfaction or happiness yesterday, and they reported no more anxiety; having a partner was associated with higher scores in satisfaction, life worthwhile and happiness yesterday; conversely, being unemployed was associated with lower scores on those three questions.
'It's good to see the project under way, but this initial account is not likely to inspire politicians or the public,' said Peter Warr, Emeritus Professor at the Institute of Work Psychology, University of Sheffield. 'The approach is almost entirely through average subgroup scores with no apparent overarching framework or psychological basis. Findings to date repeat what is already known, but maybe more sophisticated analyses in the future or observed changes over time will be more interesting.' cj

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    Posted By: Jon Sutton @ 28/03/2012 11:36 AM     News from the Psychologist  

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