Queen’s Jubilee and Olympics boosted happiness

Mo Farah's win at a successful London Olympics for Britain may have helped boost people's happiness in the UK. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Mo Farah's win at a successful London Olympics for Britain may have helped boost people's happiness in the UK. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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THE Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations are thought to have boosted people’s happiness over the last year, according to research ­released yesterday.

The latest findings from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) annual population survey found small improvements in personal wellbeing in the UK between 2011-12 and 2012-13.

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

Between 2011-12 and 2012-13, the proportion of people rating their life satisfaction as seven or more out of ten rose from 75.9 per cent to 77 per cent.

There was also a reduction in people rating anxiety at a higher level of six or more out of ten, falling from 21.8 per cent to 20.9 per cent. The data shows differences in personal well-being between groups of the population.

For example, people aged 45 to 49 rated their life satisfaction lower than any other age group and black people lower than any other ethnic group. There were no large changes between the years for unemployed people, whose average life satisfaction remained below those working.

The study says factors influencing “personal well-being are complex and will differ from person to person”.

But it added: “The period of 2012-13 also included several special events in the UK, such as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, which included a special bank holiday and the 2012 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“These events could also have potentially influenced people’s assessment of personal well-­being in the 2012-13 period.”

The factors most associated with personal well-being are health, employment and relationship status. Findings are set against a changing background.

The labour market worsened during 2011 but has generally been improving since then. Unemployment peaked in the autumn of 2011 but then decreased steadily through most of 2012.

The number of job vacancies remained close to a record low during 2011 but began to rise in early 2012 and this has continued to spring this year rate when it reached its highest since ­autumn 2008, the ONS said.

UK life satisfaction was high on average compared with many other countries. The UK was tenth for life satisfaction out of the 27 European Union countries, with an average of 7.3 out of ten in 2011, the same as 2007.

However, over the same ­period, there was a fall in life satisfaction among all other countries ranked higher than the UK. The majority of countries ranked lower than the UK in 2011 had increased life satisfaction in this time, although there were exceptions such as Greece.

Dawn Snape, ONS head of measuring well-being, said the “rosier” employment picture could be taken as a sign of “optimism” that boosted happiness.

She said: “All of those could potentially have influenced people’s assessment of how well life is going, how they feel overall, and generally raise their spirits.”

Glenn Everett, programme director for measuring national wellbeing at the ONS, said the Olympics, Paralympics and Jubilee may have given a boost as they were seen as “one-off”, “once-in-a-lifetime” events. adding: “It is the significance of one-off, almost once-in-a-lifetime events that could have an impact. The other part is that Britain did well in the Games.”

The survey, of 165,000 people in residential households, found that on average women have a higher life satisfaction, consider their activities to be more worthwhile and rate their happiness slightly higher than men.

But women also rated anxiety levels much higher, with the average anxiety rating for women at 3.1 compared to 2.9 for men.

Those in part-time work rated life satisfaction, activities in life are worthwhile and happiness slightly higher on average than those people working full-time.