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Stiff Upper Lip: Seventy Percent of Britons Think They Are Happy, Says OECD

Posted on the 13 October 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
Château de la Muette, OECD

The Château de la Muette, the OECD's headquarters in Paris. The organisation just released a report ranking national "well-being." Photo credit: OECD

If you’re a Briton, there’s a seven in ten chance you think you’re happy. That’s according to a new study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) entitled “How’s Life?”

The UK is ranked ninth for overall “well-being” in the major study, which surveyed “income, jobs, housing, health, work and life-balance, education, social connections, civic engagement and governance, environment, personal security and subjective well-being” across 40 “rich” countries (alas, not including Bhutan). Perceptions of happiness in Britain were just over the average of 6.7 out of ten. Denmark was ranked first for “well-being” with citizens ranking their happiness at 7.8 out of ten. Iceland ranked second and Japan third. The US came in at a lowly number 19.

Angel Gurría, the Secretary-General of the OECD expounded upon the origins of this new report in a speech in Paris on the 12th of October. She said the study, part of the “Your Better Life Index” published by the OECD, “offers a more comprehensive picture of people’s lives” than previous ones and cited more than simply economic reasons for conducting it.

The report also showed that:

  • Only 40 percent of rich Britons report “good health” compared to 60 percent of Germans.
  • In Britain, people trust each other more than in other Western European countries.
  • Britain’s long-term unemployment rate is very low at 2 percent (versus 9 percent in Spain and 7 percent in Ireland).
  • Economically suffering “rich” nations like Greece and Spain fared less well than poorer nations that were enjoying some success.
  • 12 percent of Britons put in more than 50 hours of work a week, the highest rate in Europe and only behind Turkey, Mexico, Israel, Australia and New Zealand — only 8 percent of Germans work more than 50 hours a week.
  • Notwithstanding all their hard work, Britons also spend on average 5 hours a day on leisure, one of the highest amounts in the study.

Stiff upper lip. The “mustn’t grumble” attitude of Britons shows through here, said Tim Ross in The Daily Telegraph. He called the seven out of ten rating of happiness “typical” British “modesty.”

We work harder than anyone else! And we’re happy! Daniel Martin in The Daily Mail started off by trashing the Spanish siesta, and then praised Britons for working harder than other Europeans. But, he noted, the British “army of bleary-eyed workaholics” still know how to have fun while keeping a “stiff upper lip” at the same time.

What’s the point of this study? “Unsurprisingly”, Eurozone debt crisis countries like Greece and Arab Spring nations in the Middle East score poorly in the study noted Randeep Ramesh in The Guardian. But what’s the point of a study like this? Ramesh asked. Dr. Andrew Oswald, an Economics professor at the University of Warwick, answered that it captures “the real emotion of people … like a painting where health stats, income and welfare figures are the background and satisfaction measures are the colour.”

More on happiness in the UK

  • Middle Class homelessness on the rise

More discoveries »

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