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What matters most to personal well-being?

Health, unemployment and relationship status are most important

Analysis from the large scale 2011/12 Annual Population Survey explores the influence of a range of factors on personal well-being across Great Britain. The analysis provides a sense of the relative importance of these factors in shaping people’s views about their own well-being – one aspect of national well-being.

How people view their health was the most important factor related to personal well-being, followed by employment status and relationship status.

Figure 1: How self-reported health relates to personal well-being

Figure 1: How self-reported health relates to personal well-being
Source: Office for National Statistics

Notes:

  1. Reference group at 0 is a baseline of people who rated their health as good.

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Holding other factors equal:

  • People who reported very bad health had much lower ratings of life satisfaction, feelings that things were worthwhile, levels of happiness and higher ratings of anxiety on average than those who said their health was good.

  • Unemployment has a strong and negative association with personal well-being. Unemployed people had lower ratings of life satisfaction, feelings that things were worthwhile, levels of happiness and higher ratings of anxiety than employed people on average.

  • People who were married or in a civil partnership had higher levels of life satisfaction, feelings that things were worthwhile, levels of happiness and lower ratings of anxiety than people who are cohabiting, single, divorced or widowed on average.

Other factors that matter to personal well-being

To a lesser extent, a number of other factors are also related to personal well-being in interesting ways. Holding other factors equal:

  • Employees with higher wages from their job give higher ratings of life satisfaction on average than those earning less, but feelings that things were worthwhile, levels of happiness and anxiety were not related to earnings.

  • People with the highest levels of educational attainment have higher ratings of anxiety on average than people with lower educational attainment. 

  • People in the Black ethnic group rated their life satisfaction and happiness significantly lower on average than those in the White group.

People’s sense of choice and contentment with their situation affects personal well-being

People’s sense of choice and contentment with their current situation also seem to be related to their levels of personal well-being. For example:

  • It is not just about having a job that matters to personal well-being, but also being content with that job. Permanent employees who wanted a different or additional job had lower levels of life satisfaction, feelings that things were worthwhile, ratings of happiness and increased levels of anxiety on average than those that didn’t want a different or additional job.

  • Those who reported that their health or disability had a negative impact on their ability to work had lower levels of personal well-being than those who said it didn’t affect their ability to work. This suggests that it is when disability and ill health limit people’s activities that it affects well-being most.

  • Also, those who are economically inactive and in caring roles but would rather be in paid work have lower personal well-being than people who are working and content with their jobs. In contrast, there is no difference in life satisfaction between people who are working and content with their job and those who are content to be economically inactive and in a caring role.

 

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Categories: Communities, Societal Wellbeing, Measuring Societal Well-being, People and Places
Content from the Office for National Statistics.
© Crown Copyright applies unless otherwise stated.