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National happiness matters more than national wealth

19 Mar 2014 | Action for Happiness

National Happiness

In a week that includes both the UK Budget (19 March) and the United Nations International Day of Happiness (20 March), a new survey has found that the vast majority of people think levels of happiness and wellbeing matter more than the size of the economy.

In a YouGov poll commissioned by Action for Happiness, a majority (87%) of UK adults were found to prefer the 'greatest overall happiness and wellbeing', rather than the 'greatest overall wealth' (8%), for the society they live in. This majority was found to be broadly consistent across all regions, age groups and social classes.

When asked to select the three changes they thought would most increase the overall happiness and wellbeing of people in the UK, 'more equality between rich and poor' came out as the most selected factor, with 45% of people choosing this; the next highest response was 'improved health services' (39%). Of the choices offered, the least important were found to be 'improved school standards' (16%) and 'improved transport and infrastructure' (16%).

When asked to select the three most important factors for their own happiness and wellbeing, 'my relationships with my partner/family' was the most selected factor, with 80% of people choosing this; the next highest was 'my health' (71%), with 'my money and financial situation' a distant third (42%). The least important factors were found to be 'my possessions' (4%) and 'my appearance' (4%).

Commenting on results, Action for Happiness Director, Dr Mark Williamson said:

"The economy dominates our political and social discussions, but this survey shows that happiness is more important to people. The vast majority of people would prefer society to be happier rather than richer. So we need to spend less time focusing on the size of the economy and more time focusing on how to help people live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives."

LSE economist and co-founder of Action for Happiness, Lord Richard Layard said:

"Our national priorities are clearly out of touch with what really matters to people. Our top priority should be people's overall happiness and wellbeing. Above all, we should be giving much more attention to mental health, supporting positive family and community relationships and creating a more trusting society."




  • Lord Richard Layard and Dr Mark Williamson are available for interviews.
  • For more information or to arrange an interview contact info@actionforhappiness.org


About the United Nations Day of Happiness (20 March)

In July 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a  resolution which recognised happiness as a "fundamental human goal" and called for "a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes... happiness and well-being of all peoples". In July 2012, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a further  resolution which decreed that the International Day of Happiness was to be observed every year on 20 March. The day was celebrated for the first time in 2013.


About Action for Happiness

Action for Happiness is a movement of people and organisations taking action to create a happier society. Launched in April 2011, the movement has over 32,000 members in over 140 countries. It is backed by leading experts from psychology, education, economics, business and social innovation. 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.




All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,391 UK adults (aged 18+). Fieldwork was undertaken between 10th - 11th March 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+). The full list of answer choices is shown below and the order of answer choices was randomised for each respondent.

Q1. If you had to choose, which ONE of the following would you MOST prefer for the society that you live in?

Choice, Results (%)

The greatest overall happiness and wellbeing, 87%
The greatest overall wealth,  8%
Don't know,  6%

Q2. Which THREE, if any, of the following do you think are MOST important for your own happiness and wellbeing?  (Please choose up to three answers)

Choice, Results (%)

My relationships with my partner/ family, 80%
My health,  71%
My money and financial situation,  42%
My friends and community,  35%
The place/ area where I live,  21%
My work,  15%
My religious/ spiritual life, 8%
My appearance, 4%
My possessions,  4%
Don't know,  2%
Other,  1%

Q3. Which THREE, if any, of the following changes do you think would MOST increase the overall happiness and wellbeing of people in the UK?  (Please choose up to three answers)

Choice, Results (%)

More equality between rich and poor, 45%
Improved health services,  39%
Less crime,  37%
More economic growth,  35%
Less immigration,  34%
Less consumerism,  24%
More help for disadvantaged people,  22%
Improved school standards,  16%
Improved transport and infrastructure,  16%
Not applicable - I don't think anything would increase the overall happiness and wellbeing of people in the UK,  3%
Don't know,  3%
Other,  2%


Action for Happiness


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