Brits choose happiness over wealth

Majority of people in the UK believe happiness should be society’s top priority – not money

People in the United Kingdom believe national happiness is more important than national wealth, according to a new survey.

A YouGov poll commissioned by Action for Happiness revealed that the majority of British people (87%) would choose happiness for their society rather than money (chosen by only 8%). These findings were largely consistent across all UK regions, classes and age groups.

When asked to choose the three most important factors for personal happiness, ‘relationships with my partner/family’ came out on top (80%) with ‘my health’ in second place (71%) and ‘money’ third (42%). ‘My appearance’ and ‘my possessions’ were the least selected factors (both 4%).

Action for Happiness director Dr Mark Williamson said the results indicate the need for a step change in attitude. “The economy dominates our political and social discussions, but this survey shows that happiness is more important to people,” he said.

“The vast majority of people would prefer Britain to be happier rather than richer. So we need to spend less time focusing on the size of the economy and more time focusing on how to help people live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.”


(c) Action for Happiness

The survey also revealed the three factors respondents felt were most likely to improve overall happiness in the UK. ‘More equality between rich and poor’ was the most selected answer (45%), ‘improved health services’ the second (39%) and ‘less crime’ the third (37%). ‘Improved school standards’ and ‘improved transport and infrastructure’ were the least selected options (both 16%).

Action for Happiness co-founder Lord Richard Layard said more attention must be paid to what it is that UK residents really want: “Our national priorities are clearly out of touch with what really matters to people. Our top priority should be people’s overall happiness and wellbeing. Above all, we should be giving much more attention to mental health, supporting positive family and community relationships and creating a more trusting society.”

The survey was commissioned to coincide with the United Nation’s second International Day of Happiness, which takes place on 20 March and is intended to redefine our ideals of social happiness. At the initiative’s launch in 2012, United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon said: “We need a new economic paradigm that recognises the parity between the three pillars of sustainable development. Social, economic, and environmental wellbeing are indivisible. Together they define gross global happiness.”