Happiness levels rise, despite Brexit

The first major report into personal well-being data since the EU referendum has been published today. So, how are we doing?

Well, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), despite the turmoil of Brexit, we’ve seen ‘statistically significant’ improvements in our life satisfaction. Between the years ending June 2016 and 2017, our average ratings of life satisfaction – the feeling that the things we do in life are worthwhile – have increased slightly.

The figures

The average (mean) ratings across the four measures of personal well-being in the year ending June 2017 were: 7.7 out of 10 for life satisfaction; 7.9 out of 10 for feeling that what you do in life is worthwhile; 7.5 out of 10 for happiness yesterday and 2.9 out of 10 for anxiety yesterday.

Highest since records began

In the year ending June 2017, the ONS says that average ratings of life satisfaction, worthwhile and happiness reached their highest levels since it began measuring personal well-being in 2011. For anxiety, average ratings reached a low in the year ending September 2015 but subsequently rose. They have since levelled off and were unchanged between the years ending June 2016 and 2017 and remain lower compared with the years ending June 2012 and 2013.

Location, location, location

The improvements seen in the ONS data were driven by England, the only country where average ratings across these measures improved, says the official data. England also had an increase in the proportion of respondents reporting very high levels of personal well-being across each of these measures.

No changes in reported personal well-being were found in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. However, the ONS points out that people in Northern Ireland continued to report higher average levels of personal well-being across all four measures compared with the UK average in the year ending June 2017.

Political uncertainty

In a year that the UK suffered terrorist attacks, political change (with a new Prime Minister) and the shock of the EU referendum, it may seem surprising that personal well-being has risen. However, some of the increases in personal well-being may be explained through the improvement in certain economic indicators within the UK. For example, the unemployment rate is at its joint lowest since 1975, says the ONS.

The ONS also notes that although Article 50 has been triggered, we have not yet left the EU and therefore the implications on the daily lives of people in the UK remain to be seen.

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