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Personal well-being in the UK

Annual Population Survey shows small improvements in personal well-being between 2011/12 and 2012/13

The latest findings from the April 2012 to March 2013 large scale Annual Population Survey show that there have been small improvements in people’s personal well-being in the UK since the previous year.

The percentage of people reporting higher levels of life satisfaction, feeling that the things they do are worthwhile and happiness levels all increased. Also, the percentage reporting higher levels of anxiety declined.

Between 2011/12 and 2012/13 there was an overall improvement in life satisfaction with the proportion of people rating their life satisfaction as 7 or more out of 10 rising from 76% to 77%. There was an overall reduction in anxiety levels, the number of people rating their anxiety at a higher level of 6 or more out of 10 fell from 22% to 21%.

There were smaller increases in the percentage of people giving ratings of 7 to 10 for feeling that things they do are worthwhile and for their happiness levels, from 80% to 81% and 71% to 72% respectively.

Findings in context

Other non-official sources show similar improvements in personal well-being in 2012 and in 2013. The European Quality of Life Survey shows that life satisfaction in the UK was similar in 2007 and 2011 despite the recession. Life satisfaction in the UK appears to have held up much better throughout the recession than it has for other European countries. 

We know that people’s health, employment status and relationship status are among the factors that are most highly associated with personal well-being. In terms of employment, the labour market picture worsened during 2011 but has generally been improving since then. Unemployment peaked in the autumn of 2011 but then decreased steadily throughout most of 2012. The number of job vacancies remained close to its record low during 2011 but began to rise in early 2012 and this has continued through to spring 2013 when it reached its highest since autumn 2008. There were also special events in the UK in 2012 such as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee which included a special bank holiday and the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games.

These circumstances and events could also have potentially influenced people’s assessment of their own personal well-being in 2012/13, however it is not possible to say how much of an impact these had on the estimates.

Differences by people’s characteristics and circumstances

People aged 45 to 54 rated their life satisfaction, worthwhile and happiness levels on average lower than any other age group. Those aged 65 to 79 had the highest levels of worthwhile and happiness but those aged 80 and over had lower average levels of personal well-being. One reason for the reduction in personal well-being in later years could be because of higher levels of loneliness among this age group.

The findings on ethnicity show that life satisfaction is highest among White and Indian people and lowest among Black people.  This is consistent with the findings from 2011/12 with Black people rating their life satisfaction lower than any other ethnic group.

There were small but statistically significant reductions in average anxiety levels of those who say their health is ‘very good’, ‘good’ or ‘fair’, but no significant change among those who say their health is ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’.

Although there were small improvements in personal well-being among those who are employed or economically inactive, there were no significant changes in personal well-being among unemployed people. 

Those who work part-time because their choices have been constrained by illness, disability or perceived inability to get a full-time job have lower average personal well-being than those who worked part-time for other reasons.

These statistics were compiled and analysed as part of the ONS Measuring National Well-being programme. If you’d like to find out more about the latest national well-being statistics, read the full bulletin and look at our range of well-being stories.


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Categories: People and Places, Communities, People, Societal Wellbeing, Measuring Societal Well-being
Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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