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The happiness road trip
Each year for Health, Wealth & Happiness (HWH) we ask the nation if they feel happier or less happy versus the equivalent period last year.
In recent times we haven’t seen many (or any) gains. In fact, in season 2022 / 2023, The Health, Wealth & Happiness Index reports a new all-time-low in the nation’s overall happiness; attributable to international events, the cost-of-living crisis and the death of the Queen.
Nonetheless, let’s set phasers to optimism. We’re hunting for happiness …
The national picture
The Happiness Index, one of the three components of the Health, Wealth & Happiness Index, scores national happiness on the strength of a handful of longitudinal studies, which are compiled by organisations such as the ONS, YouGov and Cebr.
A lot of science goes in to capture and calculate happiness and reconcile it into an annualised figure. So when the Index says happiness is at an all-time-low, it’s based on pretty hefty legwork.
The Health, Wealth & Happiness survey, on the other hand, simply asks over 3,000 people representing the UK as a whole how happy they are.
This year’s survey results? Not as bad as you’d think.
Even the Health, Wealth & Happiness Index rounds off its 2022/ 2023 write-up by saying that Brits may have turned a happiness corner. Things may be looking just a little brighter. And that chimes with HWH survey from early April …
When asked how happy people are compared to last year, the HWH survey showed a tidy old split: half the country (49%) feel no different, a quarter (25%) feel less happy, and every-so-slightly more than a quarter (26%) feel happier now versus 12 months ago. Even those at the more extreme ends, much happier (8%) and a lot less happier (8%), cancel each other out.
So we start on an optimistic note. At the very least, 75% of the UK population do not feel more unhappy than this time last year. That’s something.
Happiness where you least suspect it?
It’s illuminating to look into the demographics and regions where feelings of happiness are breaking out. That women are happier now than last year (28%) (and happier than the national average) is a refreshing and comforting change; given they felt particularly crushed during the pandemic and the early cost-of-living crisis.
Then there’s younger people, 18-34. As you’ll read elsewhere, this demo is being hardest hit each month, in terms of pure pounds and pence, by the cost-of-living crisis. Yet 42% of them – by far the most of any age group – report feeling happier now than last year. Indeed 14%, roughly one in seven go further and say they’re “much” happier …
Given the national average for those who feel happier is 26%, we thought we’d embark on a pretend road trip and visit those feeling a good bit perkier than last year. First stop on the happiness tour of Great Britain takes us to Wales, where nearly one in three (32%) people report feeling happier this year versus last.
And if you like an accent you’re in luck because Scotland’s next. North of the border, nearly one in three (31%) report feeling happier now than 12 months ago.
The two regions most likely to report no change in happiness is a pretty easy journey. Get yourself to the East Midlands, then hop a quick train to the West Midlands (25%, and 26% respectively). Happiness-wise there’s little to see here, no change.
From there it’s an easy HS2 train (no jokes please) to London where, unfortunately, folks are out on their own in feeling unhappier now versus 12 months ago. Over a third (36%) of people in the capital say they’re less happy today, and 13% answer with the more extreme “I feel a lot less happy”. This too is the most of any region.
Who else can we visit?
The next few million journeys to find happier people might be a bit of a slog. Thank goodness we’ve decent internet. Because we crunched the data on who feels happier by working pattern (fully remote, hybrid or fully on-site) and found that hybrid-worker-happiness is actually through the roof.
Surveys aplenty have, since early on in the pandemic, lauded the wellbeing benefits of flexible and hybrid working and many businesses have kept this dynamic in play since the end of Covid lockdowns.
Today, we can add our data to the mix as one in three (33%) hybrid workers say they feel happier now than this time last year. The average hybrid worker is happier than their fully remote or fully on-site counterparts (both 27%).
It’s also interesting that ethnic minority Brits are way more likely to feel happier now than 12 months ago. Bang on one in four (25%) in the white population say they feel happier now, but this rises substantially to more than one in three (37%) among the ethnic minority population.
Perhaps it’s to do with ethnic minorities building more strong friendships in the last year. We also know ethnic minority Brits are twice as likely as white Brits (28% versus 14%) to say they feel better off financially now than 12 months ago.
What about screen time
This year we splice Health, Wealth & Happiness survey data by people’s screen time, and note that people who notch up 6+ hours on a screen each workday are likely to be less happy now versus a year ago.
Among people who sit at screens for less than two hours per day, right up to people who sit at screens for 5 hours per day, a consistent one in four reports feeling less happy than the same period in 2022. But for some reason, once you cross the six-plus-hours-screen time threshold, it shoots up and one in three (32%) people report feeling less happy.
It’s difficult to know how to reconcile this answer given we have happy hybrid workers and unhappy remote workers.
One assumes both camps are able to work from afar because they use screens for much of the day, but it seems that less than six hours of daily screen time is more optimal for one’s overall happiness.
Who knows. One thing’s for sure, we’ve enjoyed a weird, awkward and jarring literary voyage around the UK. As a thought exercise, it may never be repeated … and that might make a certain someone much happier this time next year.
A ‘Searcher since 2015, John is a Protection expert having worked in our customer facing teams and best practice teams, and now is immersed in Protection Content and Marketing.See all articles by John Rogers
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