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Northern Ireland leads the happiness tables

About three-quarters of the UK population say they are satisfied with their lives, but Northern Ireland leads the rest of the country
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Keith David Barnard
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28th February 2012 - The first experimental attempt to measure the nation's happiness has found that people in Northern Ireland are most likely to say they are satisfied with their life than those from other countries in the UK.

The first results from the Measuring National Well-being programme by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests that across the UK about three-quarters of people feel they have succeeded in the pursuit of happiness.

'More to life than money': PM

The ONS has begun an ambitious programme to assess the UK's wellbeing after the Prime Minister, David Cameron, fulfilled an election pledge to find a way of measuring the state of the nation other than by gross domestic product. In 2006, Mr Cameron told a conference: "It's time we admitted that there's more to life than money, and it's time we focused not just on GDP, but on GWB - general well-being."

Between April and September last year fieldworkers sampled more than 80,000 adults across the UK with questions designed to assess their satisfaction with life or lack of it. The four questions asked were:

  • Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?
  • Overall, to what extent do you feel that the things you do in your life are worthwhile?
  • Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?
  • Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?

The responses are based on a scale between 0 and 10, where 0 is ‘not at all’ and 10 is ‘completely’.

The statisticians were able to use the results to measure wellbeing according to age, sex, ethnic background, country and region.

Across the UK

Of the four UK countries, Northern Ireland topped the happiness table with a life satisfaction score of 7.6 out of 10. This compared to 7.5 for Scotland and 7.4 for both England and Wales.

Across the English regions the results were fairly similar, but London and the West Midlands had the lowest score (7.2) and the South East and the South West the highest (7.5).

Adults living in London reported the highest levels of anxiety in the previous day compared to other regions in England and constituent countries of the UK (3.5 out of 10).

Supporting wellbeing

Mark Williamson, director of Action for Happiness, tells us: "The publication of this latest wellbeing data is another very welcome step towards the UK measuring what really matters most - people's quality of life as they experience it. For the first time we're gathering official data not just on how our economy is growing but on how our lives are going. This will allow us to better track our progress as a society and hold our politicians to account in developing policies that truly support people's wellbeing.

"Notable findings from today's publication include the evidence that people report lower levels of wellbeing the longer they have been unemployed; that Londoners report higher levels of day-to-day anxiety than others; and that although having children may not increase people's life satisfaction, they do report a greater sense that their lives are worthwhile."

Reviewed on February 28, 2012

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