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The Kindness Report: a snapshot of Compassion in Britain

06 Dec 2019 | Action for Happiness


* 60% of people believe Britain has become less caring over the last 10 years

* The Kindness Report reveals top 5 factors that predict how compassionate we are: being female, voting Remain, living with others, being under 35 and voting Labour.

* Income, social class and location don't matter when it comes to how kind we are.

Report Cover Executive Summary

Are we becoming less kind?

New research has found that 60% of people think Britain has become less caring in the last 10 years, while only 8% of people believe Britain has become more caring. 49% agree that people are kind in their local community and 44% agree that people are kind in the country as a whole.

The Kindness Report: A snapshot of Compassion in Britain is based on a national survey of compassion in Britain, carried out by Ipsos Mori on behalf of the UK-based charity Action for Happiness, with supporting statistical analysis by Dr Christian Krekel at the Centre for Economic Performance (part of the London School of Economics and Political Science).

Headline Findings

The report found that the top 5 factors most strongly predicting high levels of compassion are being female, voting Remain in the 2016 EU referendum, living with 3 or more other people, being aged under 35 and voting Labour at the 2017 general election. Income, social class and location don't really matter when it comes to how compassionate we are; likewise, levels of education and employment status do not have a statistically significant effect.

Key Findings

Professor Richard Layard (London School of Economics) said:

"These findings are remarkable. Although our nation seems increasingly polarised and people think kindness is in decline, it's encouraging to find that younger people feel the importance of showing compassion and may in fact be kinder than their elders. And as more women achieve the recognition and influence they deserve in our society, their greater compassion should be a stronger force for good. It's vital we do more to promote compassion in our politics, institutions and communities."

Dr Mark Williamson, Chief Executive of Action for Happiness said:

"Kindness is the foundation for a good society and benefits us all. Investigating kindness across Britain, this research shows that where we live and how much we earn don't divide us; yet our political differences do. There's a real link between how we vote and how much we care about others. To create a better society, we need to see beyond our divisions and unite around what we have in common. We're happier when we help each other."

About This Study

The Ipsos Mori survey measured self-reported compassion using the Santa Clara Brief Compassion Scale (SCBCS), an internationally recognised and validated scale. Respondents were given 5 statements relating to compassionate behaviour and asked how true the statements are of them on a scale of 1-7. The overall Compassion score is the average of these 5 responses, with higher scores reflecting higher levels of Compassion.

The research involved 2,237 adults aged 16-75 in the UK and was carried out between Friday 23rd and Tuesday 27th August 2019. The sample obtained is representative of the population with quotas on age, gender, region and working status and weighted to an offline nationally representative population.

To determine what predicts high levels of Compassion, regression analysis was used to identify which factors are most statistically significant, when controlling for all other factors. Regression analysis is a statistical technique to identify which independent variables (e.g. age, gender, income etc) have an impact on the dependent variable being measured (in this case Compassion). It shows which factors matter most and which can be ignored.

Compassion: Top 5 Factors

  1. Being Female (vs Male), 0.128
  2. Voted Remain in EU Referendum (vs Leave), 0.116
  3. Living with 3+ people (vs living alone), 0.105
  4. Aged under 35 (vs Aged 35 or over), 0.102
  5. Voted Labour in last General Election (vs Conservative), 0.083

Numbers show standardised scores (partial correlation coefficients, β) from regression analysis

Top 5 Factors

A wake-up call for our leaders

Jennifer Nadel, co-founder of Compassion in Politics said: 

"This report is an urgent wake-up call for our leaders. The culture of our politics and our society are intimately linked. The past decade of austerity, blame, belittling migrants and welfare recipients - and increasingly violent rhetoric in parliament - has left Britain feeling divided and dispirited. This research shows women have the highest levels of compassion, but female MPs are being bullied out of politics and subjected to unacceptable threats and intimidation. We urgently need politicians from all parties to take a stand against hate, heal divisions, and begin to rebuild a Britain based on kindness, compassion, and respect. These values are at the heart of British life and we must not allow them to be silenced."

Ben Paige, Chief Executive of Ipsos Mori said:

"What is striking is that the majority of us feel society is becoming less kind that in the past. This reflects our divisions, highlighted in the media, and how we feel as a society. So we think we are less kind - but actually charitable donations rise each year, and the British report feeling happier than in the past."

> Download the full report here

Action for Happiness runs volunteer led community courses across the UK and provides support and information on how to lead a happy and compassionate life. Find out more at www.actionforhappiness.org



For interviews, further comment and information please contact: Sarah Vero, Head of Communications, Action for Happiness: sarah.vero@actionforhappiness.org

The Ipsos Mori report and details tables can be found here.

The question "Thinking about how life in Britain has changed over the last ten years, do you think that people are now more caring, less caring or about the same?" was previously asked by Ipsos MORI in 1999, when 52% felt Britain had become less caring and 15% said more caring compared to in 2019 where 60% of people think Britain has become less while only 8% said more caring.

The research used the Santa Clara Brief Compassion Scale with respondents asked to answer the following 5 questions honestly and quickly using a scale of 1-7 (where 1 is "not at all true of me" and 7 is "very true of me"):

  • When I hear about someone (a stranger) going through a difficult time, I feel a great deal of compassion for him or her
  • I tend to feel compassion for people, even though I do not know them
  • One of the activities that provides me with the most meaning to my life is helping others in the world when they need help
  • I would rather engage in actions that help others, even though they are strangers, than engage in actions that would help me
  • I often have tender feelings toward people (strangers) when they seem to be in need

Action for Happiness is a UK Charity with over 150,000 members and over a million online followers. Its patron is the Dalai Lama. It has no commercial, political or religious affiliations.

Action for Happiness promotes the Ten Keys to Happier Living that are underpinned by the latest research in positive psychology. It also provides daily actions people can take to be happier and kinder through its app and online calendar, which is used by millions of people.

The December Kindness Calendar 2019 provides an act of kindness you can do each day in December and is a feel-good alternative to the usual commercial advent calendars.

Action for Happiness' flagship 8-week Exploring What Matters course has been run in over 250 locations and attended by thousands of people. It also hosts regular public events, supports a network of Happy Cafes and provides resources for schools and organisations.

Action for Happiness supports the #StopTheNastiness campaign, an initiative started by Compassion in Politics, which aims to encourage candidates to campaign with respect and promote compassion during the general election campaign. 

Polling done last month by Opinium on behalf of Compassion in Politics found that two in three people agree that politicians should undergo compassion training to help them work more effectively with colleagues and the public. Polling work to date from Compassion in Politics can be found here.



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