Britons' Wellbeing Stable Through Economic Crisis

by Steve Crabtree

Life ratings, health measures prove resilient during recession

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With British Prime Minister David Cameron announcing his intent to begin tracking his citizens' wellbeing, new data from Gallup surveys reveal Britons' wellbeing has neither significantly improved nor deteriorated in recent years. Despite five years of economic turmoil that included the country's longest recession on record, Britons continue to rate their lives about as well as they did in 2005, close to 7 on a 0-to-10 scale, and to expect a slightly better life five years from now.

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These ratings are among the dozens of wellbeing metrics that Gallup tracks regularly in more than 150 countries, providing the ability for comparisons across countries. Britons' average rating of their current lives in 2010 (7.03) compares well with those of most of their Western European neighbors. Further, Britons and the Dutch outscore all of their neighbors surveyed in 2010 in regard to predictions of where they will stand in five years.

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Britons' Emotional Wellbeing Stable Year Over Year

The percentage of Britons saying they experienced enjoyment during much of the previous day remained steady at more than 80% through the recession years. Similarly, the percentage saying they experienced anger remained relatively flat at slightly under 20% in 2008 and 2009. The corresponding trend for stress did spike from 34% in 2008 to 40% in 2009, but fell significantly to 31% this year.


Physical Wellbeing Also Steady

The global recession also raised concerns about access to healthcare among the poor or unemployed. However, in countries like the United Kingdom with strong social safety nets and high-quality healthcare systems, subjective health assessments tended to remain stable. Currently, 85% of Britons say they are satisfied with their physical health -- a number that hasn't moved since 2008. Though the percentage saying they felt well-rested the previous day dipped significantly in 2008, it has more than recovered in the years since.


Bottom Line

Cameron's pledge to focus "not just on GDP but on GWB -- general wellbeing" comes a year after the release of a report commissioned by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in which noted economists and social scientists called for the development of new quality-of-life measures that bridge the gap between traditional economic theory and real-world experiences. Previous Gallup research indicates wellbeing does increase with other measures beyond GDP. Recent trends from the United Kingdom provide a case in point: Though Britons' confidence in the nation's economy and financial institutions dropped during the recession, their personal wellbeing appeared to weather the storm well.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact or call 202.715.3030.

About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index tracks U.S. wellbeing and provides best-in-class solutions for a healthier world. To learn more, please visit

Survey Methods

Data from the United Kingdom are based on telephone interviews with adults aged 15 and older. Sample sizes and maximum margin of sampling error estimates are listed in the following table.

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Results from other countries in Europe are based on telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 adults in each country. For results based on each sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Gallup's life evaluation questions, based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale, are worded as follows:

  • Current life ratings: Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to ten at the top. Suppose we say that the top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you, and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time, assuming that the higher the step the better you feel about your life, and the lower the step the worse you feel about it? Which step comes closest to the way you feel?
  • Predicted life ratings: Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to ten at the top. Suppose we say that the top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. Just your best guess, on which step do you think you will stand on in the future, say about five years from now?
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