Personal happiness in and out of work
We start our investigation by linking what people say about their personal happiness with whether they are working or not. Using a scale from 0 to 10, the European Social Survey asked people:
Taking all things together, how happy would you say you are?
As we might expect, the results (Table 6.1) show that people's perceptions of their happiness are, indeed, related to the way they spend their time. Those in education (who tend to be young) and those who are retired (generally past working age) report the greatest levels of happiness. This accords with the widely cited 'U-curve' in wellbeing, where levels of happiness and life satisfaction dip during the middle years (Blanchflower and Oswald, 2008). However, we also see that people in paid work (employees and the self-employed) have higher levels of happiness than those who are unemployed or looking after the home or children. The lowest levels of happiness in this comparison are found among people who are permanently sick or disabled. There has been little change in happiness scores in any of these groups since 2004, therefore it seems that the association between economic activity and happiness has not altered during the economic crisis - or, at least, not during its earlier years.
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- British Social Attitudes and European Social Survey analysis excludes Northern Ireland, whereas OECD data are based on the whole UK. Various terms are used in this chapter to refer to people in paid work (for example, "workers", "people in paid work", and "employed people"). They all denote everyone who is either an employee or is self-employed, who usually works 10 hours or more a week, and who considers work to be their main activity.
- Part-time work was defined as working less than 35 hours per week.
- Bases for Table 6.5 are as follows:
- The fourth Work-Life Balance Employee Survey was conducted by NatCen Social Research for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
- This includes people who say they "always", "often", "sometimes" or "hardly ever" do this, but excludes those who say they "never" do.
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