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Huge opportunity to improve the nation's wellbeing

24 Jul 2012 | Action for Happiness

* First annual set of UK subjective wellbeing data published by ONS *

* Significant numbers of people with low life satisfaction scores across all regions, professions, ages and ethnic groups *

Today sees the publication of the first annual subjective wellbeing data from the UK Office for National Statistics. This puts the UK in a leading position globally in the move towards improved measures of social progress.

For the first time, official data shows how people's perceived quality of life varies with key factors such as health, work situation, geographic region, relationships and ethnic group. Many commentators are focusing on the variations in wellbeing across these factors which, for example, show that life satisfaction is highest in Northern Ireland and lowest in London.

However, the much more important finding from today's publication is that the variation in subjective well-being within any particular population grouping is generally much greater than the variation between such groupings.

Across every region, profession, age or ethnic group there are considerable numbers of people living very unhappy lives. For example, somewhere between 21% and 27% of people in every UK region have life satisfaction scores described by the ONS as "very low" or "low". Across the UK as a whole the findings suggest that around 15m people fall into these two categories.

Founder of Action for Happiness, Lord Richard Layard said: "Our priority as a nation should be to help improve the lives of those people who are struggling the most. This data shows that significant numbers of people are anxious and unhappy regardless of their occupation, ethnic background or where they live.

"We need a much wider concept of deprivation than is usually used in public debate. A person is deprived not only if they lack income but if they lack the other means to enjoy life. And the biggest single source of deprivation is lack of good mental health. We should be doing much more to support people with anxiety or depression, especially as we have cost-effective psychological therapies that have been proven to improve people's wellbeing".

Commenting on today's publication, Action for Happiness Director, Mark Williamson said: "The UK is now leading the way globally in measuring the things that matter most, especially people's feelings about how their lives are going. Today's publication is a huge step forward, but reminds us that millions of people across the UK are living unhappy lives and that we should be doing much more to help and support them".



Lord Richard Layard and Dr Mark Williamson are available for interviews.


Action for Happiness is a movement of people and organisations taking action to create a happier society. Launched in April 2011, the movement brings together like-minded people, including parents, teachers, students, volunteers, community leaders, policy makers, health experts and business people. It has over 22,000 members in over 120 countries.

Action for Happiness is backed by leading experts from diverse fields including psychology, education, economics, social innovation, business. It provides evidence-based ideas and materials to enable practical action to create happier homes, workplaces and communities. The movement was founded by Lord Richard Layard, Geoff Mulgan and Dr Anthony Seldon. Its Director is Dr Mark Williamson.


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