What’s the secret of life satisfaction?

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Image caption The young have higher life satisfaction than those in their 40s

What you spend rather than what you earn helps to determine how satisfied you are with life, a new study says.

Research from the Office for National Statistics found spending on hotels, restaurants and household furnishings was associated with life satisfaction.

Unsurprisingly, spending on insurance and mobile phones was not.


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    But the ONS said that overall spending and income mattered less than personal circumstances when measuring life satisfaction.

    Good health, marital status and economic activity had the strongest associations with how positively life satisfaction is rated.

    Its analysis found that age also mattered: the young have higher life satisfaction than those in their 40s but life satisfaction rises again in later years, before falling again for those in their 80s.

    Higher income boost

    Living circumstances were also important. Those who own their homes or have mortgages rate their life satisfaction more highly than those in private and social rented housing. Households with dependent children were also more likely to be satisfied than those without, the ONS found.

    But while spending is more important than income, households with an income of between £24,000 and £44,000 would feel more satisfied if their income increased, the ONS found.

    The ONS, which is looking beyond the official GDP gauge to try to form a broader picture of the economy, said: “There is no evidence of a statistically significant association between household disposable income and life satisfaction overall after accounting for other characteristics [such as age, marriage and employment status]”.


     

    “You are more likely to report higher life satisfaction if you have higher household spending and spending appears to matter more than household income to people’s life satisfaction,” the ONS said.

    Health matters

    Being retired, among other factors, also had a positive impact on life satisfaction.

    Whereas being unemployed or economically inactive due to sickness or disability had a significant negative impact, the ONS said.

    Health had a larger effect on reported life satisfaction than any other other characteristic or circumstance in the analysis.

    The odds of reporting higher life satisfaction are three times greater for someone reporting very good health than for someone reporting fair health, the ONS said.


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    The odds of reporting higher life satisfaction are 5.7 times lower for someone reporting very bad health than for someone reporting fair health.

    Health was also important the last time the ONS looked at this subject in 2013. The impact of someone’s marital status also appears to matter more for people’s life satisfaction than it did six years ago.

    The ONS’ findings are based on two separate surveys; its annual population survey and a separate survey on the effects of taxes and benefits.

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