ONS detects small rise in England for life satisfaction, wellbeing and happiness but Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland stay flat
The UK has become a happier place since the Brexit vote, according to official figures, but the country’s bonhomie is entirely driven by an uptick in England’s mood as wellbeing in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland stayed flat.
Key barometers of happiness and wellbeing measured by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed small improvements over the year to the end of June – the first 12-month period since the EU referendum.
However, the changes are led by improvements in England, as the only part of the UK to record improved ratings for life satisfaction, happiness and a sense that what we do in life is worthwhile. There was no change in reported personal wellbeing recorded in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
According to the ONS, average ratings of life satisfaction, wellbeing and happiness for the UK reached their highest levels in the year to the end of June since government officials began measuring personal wellbeing in 2011.
Whitehall statisticians began measuring happiness on the instigation of former prime minister David Cameron, as he looked for other measures besides GDP to gauge how the country was doing.
Traditional barometers of economic strength have painted a gloomy picture of the UK in the year since the Brexit vote. The British economy grew at half the pace of the US in the year to the end of September, while the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development expects the UK to lag behind Italy, France and Germany next year.
The fall in the value of the pound – still down more than 10% against the dollar – has driven up the cost of living thanks to the higher cost of importing goods. Inflation reached 3% in September and is expected to rise further in October when the figures are released next week.
Meanwhile, average wages have failed to keep pace, leading to six months of negative real earnings. Household debt has also been growing at almost five times the rate of growth in wages, returning to levels unseen since the financial crisis.
Still, the latest ONS figures show no increase in anxiety levels over the past year, and remain lower compared with the years ending June 2012 and 2013.
The government’s official statistics body attributed the improved picture to record levels of employment, with the most people in work since comparable records began in 1971. It found life satisfaction edged up to a high of 7.69 out of 10 in the year to June, from 7.65 a year ago.
The score for happiness rose to 7.52 out of 10 from 7.46 a year ago. This comes after ratings levelled off between 2015 and 2016. Earlier years recorded regular increases.
Matthew Steel of the ONS said: “Today’s figures, the first to be based on a full-year of data since the EU referendum, show small increases in how people in the UK rate their life satisfaction, happiness and feelings that the things they do in life are worthwhile.”