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Most people rate their well-being at 7 or more out of 10

Released: 01 December 2011 Download PDF

Around three quarters of adults in Great Britain rated their own life satisfaction, with a score of 7 or more out of 10, according to a research report published by the Office for National Statistics today. Similar proportions also rated the things that they do in life as worthwhile and their happiness over the previous day at 7 or more out of 10.

In terms of how anxious people felt, over half those asked rated their levels at below 4 out of 10 with a quarter reporting zero, i.e. ‘not at all’ anxious during the previous day.

This report brings together initial experimental results looking at individuals’ assessment of their own well-being. Four key questions to help assess people’s own individual well-being were placed on ONS household surveys from April 2011 as part of the development to supplement traditional measures of economic progress to better understand and monitor the nation’s well-being.

The estimates published today are based on around 4,200 adults (aged 16 and over) who answered these questions in the ONS Opinions Survey, from across Great Britain between April and August 2011. Results show that:

  • When asked, ‘Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?’ the majority (76 per cent) of people were estimated to have a rating of 7 out 10 or more. However, a minority (8 per cent) were estimated to be below 5 out of 10. The mean score for this question was 7.4 out of 10.

  • When asked, ‘Overall, to what extent do you think the things you do in your life are worthwhile?’ a slightly larger proportion (78 per cent) of people rated this at 7 or more out of 10. A lower proportion of adults gave lower ratings to this question, with 6 per cent giving a rating below 5 out of 10. The mean score for the ‘worthwhile’ question was higher than the ‘life satisfaction’ question at 7.6 out of 10.

  • When asked, ‘Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?’ again the majority (73 per cent) of adults responded with 7 or more out of 10. However, the spread of ratings was wider than for the ‘life satisfaction’ and ‘worthwhile’ questions. A higher proportion of people had higher ratings (36 per cent giving 9 or 10 out of 10) to the ‘happy yesterday’ question as well as lower scores (12 per cent below 5 out of 10). The mean score for the ‘happiness yesterday’ question was 7.4 out of 10.

  • When asked, ‘Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?’ over half (57 per cent) had ratings of less than 4 out of 10, a sizeable proportion (27 per cent) of people had ratings above 5 out of 10 (that is, closer to 10, feeling ‘completely anxious’ than 0, ‘not at all anxious’). The mean score for this question was 3.4 out of 10.

The four questions reported above were also seen to be linked with other areas which were identified as important for measuring national well-being as part of the national debate. Having a partner and reporting to be in good health were positively associated with ‘life satisfaction’, ‘worthwhile’ and ‘happiness yesterday’. People who were unemployed reported lower levels on average compared with those who were employed.
Additional questions were also asked on the Opinions Survey over the period including satisfaction with aspects of life. Satisfaction with ‘financial situation’ (6.2 out of 10) had the lowest mean score, followed by ‘work situation’ (6.7 out of 10) and also ‘with time to do the things you like doing’ (6.8 out of 10). When asked specifically about satisfaction with the balance between ‘time spent on paid work and on other aspects of life’, even lower scores were given, with an average of 6.4 out of 10. However, people were most satisfied on average with their ‘personal relationships’ and ‘mental well-being’ which had the highest mean scores (both at 8.3 out of 10).

ONS will publish further experimental estimates from the Integrated Household Survey, which will ask the four overall monitoring questions of around 200,000 adults over the year and will allow for analysis below the national level such as regional variations and for more detailed sub-groups of the population.

Background notes

  1. The full research report can be found at
  2. Experimental statistics are those which are in the testing phase, are not yet fully developed and have not been submitted for assessment to the UK Statistics Authority. They are published to involve users at an early stage in their development.
  3. The Opinions Survey which is being used by ONS to test and develop subjective well-being questions. This survey has a much smaller sample size than the other social surveys that ONS is asking these questions on. In July 2012, ONS are publishing the Opinions Survey estimates to involve users at an early stage in the development of the large sample results and this report also aims to help get feedback on the presentation of these statistics from users.
  4. The Measuring National Well-being programme was launched in November 2010 to provide a fuller understanding of how society is doing than economic measures, such as GDP. It started with a three month national debate on ‘What matters to you?’ to improve understanding of what should be included in measures of the nation’s well-being. Measuring What Matters: National Statistician's Reflections on the National Debate on Measuring National Well-being was published in July 2011.
  5. On 31 October ONS started a consultation on the proposed domains and headline indicators for measuring national well-being. The consultation paper suggests that individual well-being is central to the measurement of national well-being and the estimates published today are an important part of making an a full assessment of the nation’s well-being.
  6. The first annual experimental set of data from the Integrated Household Survey (IHS) will be available in July 2012 with further interim results from 6 months of the Annual Population Survey (APS), the largest constituent survey of the IHS, available in early 2012 which will have a sample size of around 80,000 adults answering the questions.
  7. There was a sample size of around 4,200 adults for the 4 overall monitoring questions in the Opinions Survey and around 1,000 adults for additional questions asked in individual months. The data were collected in April, June, July and August 2011 and relate to Great Britain. Questions were not asked in May 2011 as ONS interviewers were carrying out the Census Coverage Survey.
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