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Personal well-being in the UK: increasing inequality



Reported personal well-being has been improving every year since 2012, when the Office of National Statistics started to collect the data across four measures: life satisfaction, worthwhile, happiness and anxiety.

165,000 people are interviewed each year to compile the well-being statistics. Comparing the average ratings for the financial year ending 2015 with the previous year for each of the four measures of personal well-being:

– life satisfaction was 7.6 out of 10 (up 0.10 points yr-yr and 0.20 points from 2012)


– feeling that what one does in life is worthwhile was 7.8 out of 10 (up 0.08 points yr-yr and 0.16 points from 2012)


– happiness yesterday was 7.5 out of 10 (up 0.08 points yr-yr and 0.18 points from 2012)


– anxiety yesterday was 2.9 out of 10 (down 0.07 points yr-yr and 0.28 points from 2012)

The year-on-year differences are small but statistically significant in each case. The proportion of people giving the highest ratings (scores of 9 or 10 out of 10 for life satisfaction, worthwhile and happiness, and 0 to 1 out of 10 for anxiety) for each measure of personal well-being also increased significantly in the financial year ending 2015.

Additionally, the proportions of people reporting personal well-being at the lowest levels (scores of 0 to 4 for life satisfaction, worthwhile and happiness and ratings of 6 to 10 for anxiety) reduced, although the decreases in low well-being were small compared with the improvements in the highest ratings.

This is important because it indicates that while improvements are widespread across the population, they are uneven. The proportion reporting very high personal well-being is growing faster than the proportion reporting low levels is falling. This indicates increasing inequality in personal well-being.

Happiest places in the UK
1. Fermanagh and Omagh
2. Ribble Valley
3. Eilean Siar
4. West Somerset
5. Orkney Islands

Least happy places
1. Bolsover
2. Cannock Chase
3. Dundee City
4. Dover
5. Liverpool