In news unlikely to shock those currently labouring under the pressure of impending examinations, Britain has been officially declared one of the Europe’s less pleasant places to live. A survey carried out by Cambridge University’s Faculty of Economics has assessed the relative happiness of 15 European countries and placed Britain firmly in 9th place.

The happiness of the British population has been conclusively analysed and measured out into statistics to leave us with a score of 7.47 out of 10 for happiness and 7.11 out of 10 for satisfaction, leaving Britain the 10th most satisfied country in Europe.

1st place for both tables went to Denmark, whose people ranked themselves 8.3 out of 10 for happiness and 8.4 out of 10 for satisfaction. Those living in Britain can however console themselves with the idea that they rank higher than France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Greece in both tables.

Dr Luisa Corrado, the director of the project, said, “the survey shows that trust in society is very, very important. The countries that scored highest for happiness also reported the highest levels of trust in their governments, laws and each other. The UK shows falling trust in government, the police and other institutions and higher social distrust, which might explain why the level of happiness among British people has also fallen.”

Scores were cross-referenced across the countries with the results of a more extensive survey designed by a team of leading psychologists. Each participant was asked questions about their religious beliefs and the trust they placed in public authorities.

Researchers hope that the survey could be used to influence government policy. Cambridge’s survey shows that the continuous economic success and rising wealth in Britain during the last fifteen years has not produced a corresponding increase in general wellbeing, or at least in the perceived happiness of survey participants in relation to the society in which they live.

Corrado said, “the message to policy-makers is that they should promote social inclusion, because that brings the psychological integration that is essential to happiness.” The report appears to support the often repeated maxim that it is not enough for governments to focus on improving wealth and that general well-being would be more likely to flourish in a mutually supportive and trusting society. “The question is, are governments addressing these issues?”

But it is not just social inclusion which contributes to a more content population. The report also indicates that women are generally happier than men, and that both the young and the old are happier than the middle-aged.

Lizzie Briggs

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