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Positive Britain: in spite of everything, the majority of Brits are happy...

Positive Britain: in spite of everything, the majority of Brits are happy...

Posted by: Huq | Date added: Mon 16 Jan 2012

But is it the right kind of happiness?

- At any given time over the last decade, more than 80 percent of UK people declared themselves content with the life they lead
- Two-thirds of people agree they have felt “happy” most of the time in the last month
- Meanwhile, the Government continues to measure our national happiness level in new ways and will insist that real happiness springs only from the right lifestyle choices

Britons are a pretty content family of people, confirms a new research report by the Future Foundation, the leading international consumer futures business.

At any given time over the last decade, more than 80 per cent of British people declared themselves content with the life they lead. In fact, two thirds agreed that they have felt “happy” most of the time in the last month[1]. In 2011, the Future Foundation’s own research found that around 90% of young British teenagers declared themselves to be “quite” or “very” happy.

As the Coalition Government releases more findings from its own happiness survey during the course of 2012, politicians and consumers alike will be driven to be more interested in measuring how happy we are than how wealthy our economy is, predicts the Future Foundation. In times of restricted growth and damaged household incomes, the Future Foundation sees it as inevitable that we will all be invited to define national success not so much by our macro-economic performance but by our psychological balance.

Heather Corker, analyst at the Future Foundation, said: “The public conversation in 2012 is set to shift from economic woe to inner wellbeing. No government is going to insist that GDP is the perfect indicator of national success - especially since the economy is so vulnerable. And there will be nothing hippy or fluffy about this happiness emphasis - it will turn into a debate about how we all ought to live our lives and about which lifestyle choices are good news and which are bad karma.

“When discussing happiness, many policy-makers are implicitly referencing those who are living lives which do not meet certain desirable standards. With spending on the NHS now stretching beyond £100 billion per annum the race to bring down healthcare bills by prevailing on citizens to lead healthier, happier lives is well and truly on”.

As 2012 dawns, around 35 percent of the UK is seriously over-weight (cf <10 percent in the early 1980s). In Scotland, 12 litres of alcohol per person are regularly drunk each year; in England it is <10. In 2011, the NHS reported that in England there were, for the first time, more than one million hospital admissions directly related to alcohol abuse.

Something has to give. Future Foundation research in 2011 also found that around 30% of us admit to feeling guilty about giving in to passing fancies and indulgences. Attempts to encourage such feelings will be a feature of public policy in the future. The debate about minimum alcohol pricing - so lively in Scotland - shows just how willing politicians can be to regulate when encouragement seems to be too slow-burn an option.

Happiness is a pivotal debate not only to consumers and political parties in the UK. Across the globe, countries such as Australia, Japan and USA have their own ways of measuring happiness (see box out for Australia example). Even the OECD (in the context of its own Better Life Index) says these days : “There is more to life than the cold numbers of GDP and economic statistics”.

Almost always, such analyses focus on how vulnerable human beings are to the dangers of excess: too many possessions, too much acquisitiveness, too many fatty/sugary foods, too many glasses of wine, too much time spent at work, too much time in telly-slippers rather than running shoes. This is all the stuff of so many public information campaigns in the UK and all over the developed world.

Heather Corker adds: “Happiness is indeed something of a new science but it’s probably easier to track the movements of nuclear particles than to know just how happy individuals are and what keeps them that way. But one thing is clear: happiness is not a neutral subject. With so much pressure on public spending, governments are keen for us to lead lives which simply cost less. We predict that the evidence which will emerge from the year ahead will show that people are happiest when they work hard, build skills, organise accomplishment into their lives, help others, eat well, take exercise, develop self-reliance (away from state support). Happiness is going to get a whole lot less subjective - a whole lot more political. The pressure on markets and offers with an indulgence dimension will increase accordingly”.

Future Foundation’s Trends Report underlines a range of other issues which it believes will come to the fore in 2012, including eco-sensibilities as well as highlighting the digital technologies that are helping increase consumer power and independence, such as the new generation of e-readers, tablets and smartphones. The report also discusses how the array of events being held in 2012, including the London Olympics and Diamond Jubilee, will lift the spirits of a troubled economy and provide more seasonal/incidental pretexts for spending than possibly any year in the decade to come.

Experts are available to comment on Future Foundation’s research upon request.


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