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1. Main facts and figures

  • in 2016, people from the Indian ethnic group reported an average score for happiness higher than the national average, and people from the Black and Mixed ethnic groups reported average scores lower than the national average

  • where 0 is ‘not at all happy’, and 10 is ‘completely happy’, average responses for each group ranged from 7.35 out of 10 for the Black group, to 7.75 out of 10 for the Indian group

  • between 2012 and 2016 there were improvements in happiness scores for all ethnicities apart from Bangladeshi, Chinese, Other Asian and Arab ethnic groups

  • in 2016, the Indian ethnic group had a higher than UK average percentage reporting ‘very high’ levels of happiness, at 38.6%

Things you need to know

This analysis is based on the Annual Population Survey (APS). The APS is a ‘sample survey’. It collects information from a random sample of the population to make generalisations (reach 'findings') about the total population.

The commentary for this data only includes reliable, or ‘statistically significant’, findings.

Findings are statistically significant when we can be confident that they can be repeated, and are reflective of the total population rather than just the survey sample.

Differences are statistically significant if the results for the 2 groups or time periods being compared are within entirely different ranges.

Variance

Respondents answered the question ‘Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?’ on a scale of 0 to 10. Where an average result for the ethnic group studied is based on a small range of answers (for example, respondents scored between 6 and 8 out of 10) we can be fairly confident about that survey estimate.

However, when the average result is based on a wide variation in answers (for example, respondents scored between 4 and 9 out of 10) we can be much less certain of the reliability of the survey estimate.

Where no commentary has been supplied for trends or differences apparently visible in the charts and tables, it’s because this wide variation (known as ‘variance’) makes them unreliable.

Comparisons have been based on unrounded data. Personal well-being questions can only be answered in person (they cannot be answered by proxy).

What the data measures

This data measures how happy people felt recently.

The information comes from the Office for National Statistics (ONS’s) Annual Population Survey. Since 2011, this survey has asked people aged 16 and over questions about their personal well-being.

This data is based on the results from the question:

  • overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?

People were asked to respond on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is ‘not at all’, and 10 is ‘completely’.

The data compares the average (‘mean’) overall levels of happiness between ethnic groups. It also looks at ‘thresholds’ of happiness within ethnic groups, measuring the percentage of people in each group who experienced:

  • low levels of happiness (scoring 0 to 4)
  • medium levels of happiness (scoring 5 to 6)
  • high levels of happiness (scoring 7 to 8)
  • very high levels of happiness (scoring 9 to 10)

There are 3 other well-being questions asked as part of the survey:

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

The results for these questions are available in the Health section (Physical and mental health).

The ethnic categories used in this data

In England, the Annual Population Survey (APS) uses the 18 specific ethnic group categories of the Office of National Statistics 2011 Census. However, the censuses in Scotland and Northern Ireland use different, broader categorisations. The ethnic categories listed here are therefore the greatest detail available for APS data at UK level.

  • Arab
  • Asian
    • Bangladeshi
    • Chinese
    • Indian
    • Pakistani
    • Other Asian Background
  • Black/African/Caribbean/Black British
  • Gypsy/Traveller/Irish Traveller
  • Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups
  • White
  • Other

There are some differences in the ethnic categories the Annual Population Survey uses in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Data has been harmonised for this analysis using the list above, in line with ONS Census guidance (PDF).

2. Happiness yesterday by ethnicity

Average happiness score by ethnicity
Ethnicity Average score
All 7.49
Bangladeshi 7.58
Chinese 7.54
Indian 7.75
Pakistani 7.50
Asian other 7.61
Black 7.35
Mixed 7.37
White 7.49
Other 7.62
Arab 7.41
Gypsy / Traveller / Irish Traveller withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • in 2016, the UK average score for happiness was 7.49 out of 10, where 0 is ‘not at all happy’, and 10 is ‘completely happy’

  • average happiness scores were higher than the UK average for people from the Indian ethnic group (at 7.75 out of 10), but lower than the UK average for people from the Black ethnic group (at 7.35 out of 10)

  • the other ethnic groups reported broadly average scores for happiness

3. Happiness by ethnicity over time

Average happiness score by ethnicity over time
Ethnicity 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
All 7.31 7.37 7.44 7.48 7.49
Bangladeshi 7.30 7.56 7.57 7.44 7.58
Chinese 7.41 7.51 7.51 7.60 7.54
Indian 7.49 7.54 7.59 7.70 7.75
Pakistani 7.16 7.18 7.39 7.53 7.50
Asian other 7.37 7.43 7.50 7.52 7.61
Black 7.03 7.16 7.33 7.31 7.35
Mixed 7.03 7.24 6.99 7.21 7.37
White 7.32 7.38 7.45 7.48 7.49
Other 7.09 7.19 7.43 7.43 7.62
Arab 6.88 6.94 7.15 7.19 7.41
Gypsy / Traveller / Irish Traveller withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • overall, people were happier in 2016 than in 2012, with the UK average score for happiness increasing from 7.31 to 7.49 out of 10

  • in the same period, most ethnic groups experienced increasing levels of happiness; however, it’s not possible to draw firm conclusions about the increase in happiness for Bangladeshi, Chinese, Other Asian and Arab people because of the wide variation in responses for these groups

4. Happiness thresholds by ethnicity

Percentage of adults in each happiness threshold, by ethnicity
Ethnicity Low (0-4) Medium (5-6) High (7-8) Very High (9-10)
All 8.7 16.3 40.4 34.6
Bangladeshi 7.4 20.1 35.3 37.3
Chinese withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 18.4 45.7 30.7
Indian 5.3 16.7 39.5 38.6
Pakistani 9.5 16.0 38.8 35.7
Asian other 6.0 16.3 43.4 34.3
Black 10.0 19.7 35.9 34.4
Mixed 9.4 16.5 43.4 30.8
White 8.8 16.2 40.5 34.5
Other 6.7 16.5 42.9 33.9
Arab 9.7 17.9 39.0 33.4
Gypsy / Traveller / Irish Traveller withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

Where 0 is ‘not at all happy’, and 10 is ‘completely happy’, ‘thresholds’ of happiness within ethnic groups measure the percentage of people in each group experiencing:

  • low happiness (scoring 0 to 4)
  • medium happiness (scoring 5 to 6)
  • high happiness (scoring 7 to 8)
  • very high happiness (scoring 9 to 10)

This data shows that:

  • in the UK, on average, 8.7% of people said they experienced ‘low happiness’, 16.3% experienced ‘medium happiness’, 40.4% experienced ‘high happiness’ and 34.6% experienced ‘very high happiness’

  • in 2016, the percentage of Indian people reporting a very high level of happiness (38.6%) was above the UK average (34.6%); within all other ethnic groups, there were no meaningful differences between the percentage who had very high levels of happiness and the national average

5. ‘Very high’ levels of happiness, by ethnicity over time

Percentage of adults in the ‘very high’ happiness threshold, by ethnicity over time
Ethnicity 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
All 31.5 32.3 33.7 34.2 34.6
Bangladeshi 33.4 35.0 37.9 34.2 37.3
Chinese 27.3 29.4 34.1 33.5 30.7
Indian 35.7 32.7 34.9 35.8 38.6
Pakistani 30.7 32.1 34.4 36.1 35.7
Asian other 31.5 34.6 31.4 34.0 34.3
Black 29.4 32.4 33.0 32.5 34.4
Mixed other 24.7 31.9 28.7 28.8 30.8
White 31.6 32.3 33.8 34.3 34.5
Other 28.6 30.4 32.4 32.8 33.9
Arab 23.7 23.3 26.3 31.9 33.4
Gypsy / Traveller / Irish Traveller withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • between 2012 and 2016, the overall percentage of people in the UK reporting ‘very high’ levels of happiness increased by more than 3 percentage points, from 31.5% in 2012 to 34.6% in 2016

  • in the same period, the percentage of people reporting ‘very high’ levels of happiness increased for White people (from 31.6% in 2012 to 34.5% in 2016) and Black people (29.4% to 34.4%)

  • there were no meaningful changes for people from the other ethnic groups because of the wide variation in responses for these groups

6. Happiness by ethnicity and gender

Average happiness score by ethnicity and gender
Ethnicity Female Male
All 7.46 7.42
Bangladeshi 7.60 7.37
Chinese 7.78 7.41
Indian 7.52 7.70
Pakistani 7.42 7.42
Asian other 7.58 7.44
Black 7.28 7.25
Mixed other 7.09 7.18
White 7.47 7.43
Other 7.42 7.39
Arab 6.98 7.04
Gypsy / Traveller / Irish Traveller withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • in 2016, White women reported higher average scores for happiness than White men did, at 7.47 and 7.43 respectively (out of 10)

  • there were no meaningful differences in happiness scores between men and women in other ethnic groups, because of the wide variation in responses for these groups

7. Happiness by ethnicity and socio-economic group

Average happiness score by ethnicity and socio-economic group
Ethnicity Higher managerial and professional Lower managerial and professional Intermediate occupations Small employers and own account workers Lower supervisory and technical Semi-routine occupations Routine occupations Never worked, unemployed, and nec
All 7.59 7.54 7.47 7.54 7.44 7.35 7.33 7.36
Bangladeshi 7.44 7.29 7.45 7.58 7.70 7.11 7.62 7.57
Chinese 7.63 7.57 7.50 7.73 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 7.72 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 7.62
Indian 7.73 7.62 7.69 7.71 7.71 7.42 7.71 7.53
Pakistani 7.71 7.57 7.44 7.19 7.65 7.38 7.53 7.33
Asian other 7.54 7.55 7.44 7.29 7.44 7.52 7.73 7.47
Black 7.36 7.32 7.26 7.34 7.53 7.22 7.34 7.18
Mixed 7.42 7.20 7.10 7.00 7.02 7.21 7.27 6.97
White 7.59 7.55 7.48 7.55 7.43 7.35 7.31 7.36
Other 7.69 7.27 7.19 7.47 7.82 7.59 7.51 7.25
Arab 7.27 7.27 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 6.79 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 6.90
Gypsy / Traveller / Irish Traveller withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • there were no meaningful differences between ethnic groups in the happiness experienced by people in different socio-economic groups

  • although the table shows differences between groups for happiness, sample sizes were too small to draw reliable conclusions about these results

8. Methodology

This data presents the results from the question, ‘Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?’

People were asked to respond on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is ‘not at all’, and 10 is ‘completely’. Estimates were produced as mean scores, as well as thresholds.

Personal well-being questions are asked to adults age 16 and over, living in private households. Personal well-being questions can only be answered in person (they cannot be answered by proxy).

The Annual Population Survey (APS) is a continuous household survey. Most people are interviewed face to face at first contact, and by telephone at subsequent contacts. The sample is formed partly from waves 1 and 5 of the Labour Force Survey (in which selected addresses are contacted every 3 months) and partly from boost cases, which are in the sample for 4 waves, spread one year apart.

The sampling frame is mainly the Royal Mail Postcode Address File (PAF). The NHS communal accommodation list is also used and (in the case of remote parts of Scotland) telephone directories. All eligible individuals found at the selected address may be interviewed. The complex survey design has been taken into account when calculating confidence intervals.

The achieved sample of approximately 158,000 respondents undergoes weighting, which is structured at local authority level and uses age and sex dimensions. The Office for National Statistics population estimates and projections are used as the basis for this weighting process.

Results derived from a low number of survey responses are more likely to be affected by statistical variation, so observed differences may not reflect actual difference. As such, caution is needed when interpreting short-term trends in the data, especially for sub groups (for example, a particular ethnic group).

Smaller numbers of survey respondents from ethnic minority backgrounds and smaller geographic regions mean that these estimates are less reliable than estimates for White people and larger regions.

Measuring well-being requires a number of different approaches in order to capture a range of factors which contribute to an individual's overall sense of wellbeing. The APS uses a number of specific approaches, including the evaluative, eudemonic, experience and individual well-being approaches.

This measure involves the ‘experience approach’, which seeks to measure people’s positive and negative experiences (or affect) over a short timeframe to capture their subjective well-being on a day-to-day basis. The question “Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?” is a positive affect question, in contrast to the negative affect question “Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?”.

Thresholds are used in the report to present dispersion in the data. These show the proportion of responses that fall into 4 groups on a scale of 0 to 10:

  • low levels of happiness (scoring 0 to 4)
  • medium levels of happiness (scoring 5 to 6)
  • high levels of happiness (scoring 7 to 8)
  • very high levels of happiness (scoring 9 to 10)

All the differences noted in the text are statistically significant. The statistical significance of differences are approximate because they are determined on the basis of non-overlapping confidence intervals.

Confidence intervals

Confidence intervals for each ethnic group are available in the ‘download the data’ section.

The Annual Population Survey is based on a sample of people aged 16 and over across the UK. This measure makes a reliable estimate of, for example, the percentage of people aged 16+ with a high level of happiness, but it’s impossible to be 100% certain of the true percentage.

It’s 95% certain, however, that somewhere between 40.1% and 40.8% of all people aged 16+ in the UK reported a high level of happiness in 2016. In statistical terms, this is a 95% confidence interval. This means that if 100 random samples were taken, then 95 times out of 100 the estimate would fall between the upper and lower bounds of the confidence interval. But 5 times out of 100 it would fall outside this range.

The smaller the survey sample, the more uncertain the estimate and the wider the confidence interval. For example, fewer people aged 16+ from the Arab ethnic group responded to the survey than White people aged 16+ , so we can be less certain about the estimate for the smaller group. This greater uncertainty is expressed by a wider confidence interval, for example of between 32.9% and 45.1% for Arab people aged 16+ in 2016.

All the differences noted in the text are statistically significant. The statistical significance of differences are approximate because they are determined where the 95% confidence intervals for 2 groups or time periods don't overlap.

An example of non-overlapping confidence intervals would be the results for the Chinese ethnic group, which had a confidence interval of between 40.4% and 51.1%, and those for the Bangladeshi ethnic group, which had a confidence interval of between 30.4% and 40.1%.

Suppression rules and disclosure control

Estimates are suppressed if:

  • the sample size is less than 50

  • the degree of variability of responses (coefficient of variation) is greater than 20%

  • the threshold numerator is based on a small number, as defined by the Government Statistical Service (GSS) quality and suppression guidance

Rounding

Estimates of mean scores have been rounded to 2 decimal places; estimates of percentages within thresholds have been rounded to 1 decimal place.

Sample sizes have been rounded to the nearest 10, following Government Statistical Service guidance.

Comparisons have been based on unrounded data.

Quality and methodology information

Further technical information

Labour force survey user guidance (PDF)

9. Data sources

Source

Type of data

Survey data

Type of statistic

National Statistics

Publisher

Office for National Statistics

Publication frequency

Yearly

Purpose of data source

The Office for National Statistics collects well-being data to:

  • monitor national well-being
  • develop government policy making
  • make comparisons between the UK and other countries
  • give individuals data they can use to make informed decisions

10. Download the data

Happiness yesterday - Spreadsheet (csv) 96 KB

This file contains: Measure, Year, Ethnicity, Sex, NS-SEC, Threshold, Value, Percentage, Upper Confidence Interval, Lower Confidence Interval, Sample Size