Are you a happy person? If not, when were you last happy? Or are you looking forward to times of happiness? If you read many of our Letter To My Younger Self interviews, you’ll find lots of our interviewees look back at their teenage years with joy, and are in similarly good places right now – despite periods of stress or upheaval in the intermitting years.
Well, it seems there is some concrete evidence to this pattern, thanks to Resolution Foundation research.
People in the UK are happiest when they are 16 and 70, its report has revealed.
Findings were based on Office for National Statistics data collected between 2011 and 2018, an initiative started by David Cameron who said: “It’s time we admitted that there’s more to life than money and it’s time we focused not just on GDP but on GWB – general wellbeing.”
The Resolution Foundation research found a slight rise in happiness in people’s early 20s, but this is followed by an uptick in anxiety between the mid-20s and mid-50s.
The report also confirms that money can, in fact, buy happiness – sometimes. Higher employment rates and higher incomes tend to link with more positive wellbeing reports
However the study shows that it would take more to improve the happiness of well-off households than those on lower incomes. It found that an extra £1,000 of income a year raises the wellbeing of someone on a low income more than it improves the life of someone already financially comfortable. The research also points towards housing as having a big impact on happiness. Homeowners are the happiest and most secure, even when the data is adjusted to account for variations in income. The think tank said this highlights the importance of quality social housing and safeguards for private renters.
Happiness took a nosedive when jobs are lost, and these dips in happiness are, on average, greater than the rise in wellbeing when someone gets a new job. This suggests that the issue is about more than just a loss of income.
The Resolution Foundation said the study was to better inform policy makers about how to improve national wellbeing.
Those surveyed rated their own happiness as part of household surveys, and so could set their own measures of wellbeing. The Resolution Foundation said the most important components of wellbeing appeared to be health, career and a partner. However this varied depending on income, location and age.
The study concluded that while wellbeing research is a valuable measure of living standards, it should be used alongside measures to help people financially to really improve national happiness.