Happy, but anxious

Results from the 2012 UK Happiness Index indicate that happiness and anxiety are almost on par. 

Photo: Jessica.Tam/Flickr.com

The report captures 200,000 people living in the UK, as part of an ongoing wellbeing project steered by the Office of National Statistics (ONS). In this phase of the project, respondents were asked to rate their response to the following questions on a scale of one to ten:

• how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?
• how happy did you feel yesterday?
• how anxious did you feel yesterday?
• to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?

The results show that people are generally happy. 71% of respondents said they were happy yesterday. However, that statistic is almost matched by the number of people who said they were anxious yesterday: 60.1%.

While this finding might seem startling, that we can be generally happy but also generally quite stressed out, researchers have already noted that stress levels are increasing.

Mark Williams, a professor in clinical psychology at University of Oxford, and co-founder of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), has noted that stress levels are much higher than in previous decades.

In a YouTube clip for The Mental Health Foundation, a charity in the UK, Williams explains how prevalent stress has become:

 “If you look at just children and young people and students, their stress and anxiety levels in the 1950s for example, and you track that carefully, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, what you find is that people by the ’80s and ’90s […] the average level of anxiety was equivalent to clinical levels in the 1950s,” says Williams.

To read more on the 2012 UK Happiness Index, visit The Guardian’s in-depth reporting on the data.