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Eye-catching Happiness Research


There have been two studies mentioned in the media this week that caught my ‘Practically Positive’ eye.

We’re not happy at work

The first said that researchers have found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that Brits experience a seven to eight per cent drop in happiness while they’re at work. The only place we’re more miserable than we are when we’re at work, is when we’re ill in bed.


Researchers analysed more than a million responses gathered from smartphone app Mappiness. Mappiness is part of a research project at the London School of Economics who are interested in how people's happiness is affected by their local environment, such as air pollution, noise, green spaces, etc. All you have to do to take part in their study is download the app – unfortunately those of us who use Android phones can’t join in, the app is only available for iPhones - then each day it will ask how you're feeling, and a few basic things to control e.g. who you're with, where you are, what you're doing (if you're outdoors, you can also take a photo). The data is then sent back anonymously and securely to the LSE data store, along with your approximate location from the iPhone's GPS, and a noise-level measure. The results will be published in academic journals, starting with this paper in Global Environmental Change.

The creator of the app, Dr George MacKerron, from the University of Sussex, said: "Mappiness is interesting because it quizzes people in the moment, before they get a chance to reach for their rose-tinted glasses. For example, it is common to hear people say that they enjoy their work, but the Mappiness data shows that people are happier doing almost anything other than working.”

"Although we may be positive about our jobs when reflecting on the meaning and purpose they give us, and the money they provide, actually engaging in paid work comes at a significant psychological cost. It appears that work is highly negatively associated with momentary wellbeing: work really is disutility, as economists have traditionally assumed. At any given moment, we would rather be doing almost anything else."

Why aren’t we happy at work and what can we do about it?

Our Flourish at Work research shows that truly flourishing involves a unique combination of 6 feelings, Valuable, Autonomous, Challenged, Passionate, Safe and Connected. This tool measures the extent to which you are experiencing the things that bring about those feelings. If we ‘would rather be doing anything else’ maybe we don’t have enough autonomy in our work; which we know from research is one of the keys to feeling we are flourishing.

Middle age makes us unhappy

The other study that I noticed said that people, like me, who are aged 40-59 are least satisfied, least happy and most anxious. The Office of National Statistics report analysed personal wellbeing data for more than 300,000 adults in the UK, which was collected from 2012 to 2015, and found that happiness and life satisfaction plummeted among respondents aged 35 and over.

Even the elderly, aged over 90, report better life satisfaction and happiness than those aged 40-59. How depressing (I’m fast approaching 45!) Women overall reported experiencing higher levels of anxiety than men – I can concur, certainly compared to my husband! – but they are happier and more satisfied with life in general than men.

The report suggests that those of us in ‘middle age’ have multiple responsibilities, such as looking after our young children and elderly parents too. Whilst the younger and older age groups both have more time for the fun stuff. I don’t necessarily agree, we regularly do a fair amount of fun stuff. It’s great.

When looking at happiness, the report says that those aged 40-59 generally reported low levels of happiness, with the 50-54-year-olds the least happy of all. The people aged 65-74 were the happiest, with young people of 16 to 19 also reporting good levels of happiness. Those over 75 had declining happiness levels, but even those aged over 90 were happier than us middle aged people.

If you’re feeling like these reports could be talking about you, there are lots of ways of helping to increase your happiness, such as practising gratitude and being mindful. We’ve talked about these in many of our previous blogs, so have a read and give yourself a happiness boost.

Building resilience


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