Well-being: how worthwhile people feel the things they do in their life are

The main facts and figures show that:

  • overall, when people in the UK were asked how worthwhile they felt their activities were on a scale of 0 to 10 (where 0 is ‘not at all’, and 10 is ‘completely’), the average score in 2017 was 7.88
  • in 2017, people in the Black, Chinese and Mixed ethnic groups scored lower than the UK average when asked if they felt their activities were worthwhile; the scores of other ethnic groups were in line with the UK average
  • women from the Black, Mixed, Pakistani, White and Other ethnic groups were more likely to feel their activities were worthwhile than men from the same ethnic groups
  • between 2012 and 2017, most ethnic groups saw an increase in how worthwhile they felt their activities were; it’s not possible to draw firm conclusions about the Arab, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Mixed and Other Asian ethnic groups because of the wide variation in responses for these groups
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, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?’ 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

The data measures how worthwhile people feel the things they do in their life are.

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, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?

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

To keep the commentary for this data as clear and concise as possible, the phrase ‘your activities’ has sometimes been used as an alternative to ‘the things you do in your life’.

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

  • low levels of feeling their activities were worthwhile (scoring 0 to 4)
  • medium levels of feeling their activities were worthwhile (scoring 5 to 6)
  • high levels of feeling their activities were worthwhile (scoring 7 to 8)
  • very high levels of feeling their activities were worthwhile (scoring 9 to 10)

There are 3 other well-being questions asked as part of the survey. You can see data on anxiety, happiness and life satisfaction on this website.

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).

Ethnic groups and how data on ethnicity is collected

Feeling the things you do in your life are worthwhile, by ethnicity

Average score for how worthwhile people feel their activities are, by ethnicity

Ethnicity Average score
All 7.88
Arab 7.68
Bangladeshi 7.74
Chinese 7.61
Indian 7.90
Pakistani 7.91
Asian other 7.82
Black 7.72
Mixed 7.69
White 7.89
White Gypsy/Traveller withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Other 7.89

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • overall, when people in the UK were asked how worthwhile they felt their activities were on a scale of 0 to 10 (where 0 is ‘not at all’, and 10 is ‘completely’), the average score in 2017 was 7.88
  • the Chinese, Mixed and Black ethnic groups reported lower than average levels of feeling their activities were worthwhile, scoring 7.61, 7.69 and 7.72 out of 10 respectively
  • for all other ethnic groups, scores for feeling their activities were worthwhile were around the UK average

Feeling the things you do in your life are worthwhile, by ethnicity over time

Average score for how worthwhile people felt their activities were, by ethnicity over time

Ethnicity 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
All 7.70 7.73 7.80 7.84 7.85 7.88
Arab 7.19 7.33 7.48 7.77 7.75 7.68
Bangladeshi 7.44 7.62 7.76 7.79 7.65 7.74
Chinese 7.43 7.47 7.75 7.66 7.74 7.61
Indian 7.71 7.73 7.76 7.88 7.90 7.90
Pakistani 7.53 7.61 7.75 7.81 7.86 7.91
Asian other 7.56 7.62 7.78 7.70 7.82 7.82
Black 7.47 7.59 7.64 7.69 7.65 7.72
Mixed 7.46 7.67 7.52 7.69 7.72 7.69
White 7.72 7.74 7.81 7.85 7.86 7.89
White Gypsy/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
Other 7.41 7.46 7.66 7.72 7.81 7.89

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • between 2012 and 2017, people in the Black, Indian, Pakistani, White, and Other ethnic groups all saw an overall increase in how worthwhile they felt their activities were
  • although other ethnic groups also reported increased scores over this period, it’s not possible to draw firm conclusions about the increases because of the wide variation in responses for these groups

Feeling the things you do in your life are worthwhile: thresholds, by ethnicity

Percentage of people in each threshold (how worthwhile they feel their activities are) by ethnicity

Ethnicity Very High (9-10) High (7-8) Medium (5-6) Low (0-4)
% % % %
All 35.70 48.61 12.06 3.63
Arab 32.67 46.00 16.90 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Bangladeshi 34.71 44.87 13.96 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Chinese 24.23 58.91 14.24 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Indian 34.40 50.83 12.15 2.62
Pakistani 37.91 43.85 15.50 2.82
Asian other 34.09 48.07 15.50 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Black 35.44 43.69 15.94 4.93
Mixed 30.32 50.49 15.03 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
White 35.89 48.73 11.75 3.63
White Gypsy/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
Other 35.54 48.61 13.21 2.65

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

‘Thresholds’ measure the percentage of people in each ethnic group falling into the following categories (where 0 is ‘not at all worthwhile’, and 10 is ‘completely worthwhile’):

  • low levels of feeling their activities were worthwhile (scoring 0 to 4)
  • medium levels of feeling their activities were worthwhile (scoring 5 to 6)
  • high levels of feeling their activities were worthwhile (scoring 7 to 8)
  • very high levels of feeling their activities were worthwhile (scoring 9 to 10)

This data shows that:

  • overall, 35.70% of people in the UK scored very highly (9 or 10 out of 10) for feeling their activities were worthwhile
  • the percentage of people from the Chinese and Mixed ethnic groups in the ‘very high’ threshold for feeling their activities were worthwhile was lower than the UK average (at 24.23% and 30.32% respectively)
  • within all other ethnic groups, there was no meaningful difference between the percentage who had very high levels of feeling their activities were worthwhile and the UK average

‘Very high’ levels of feeling the things you do in your life are worthwhile, by ethnicity over time

Percentage of people who had very high levels of feeling their activities were worthwhile, by ethnicity over time

Ethnicity 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
% % % % % %
All 31.50 32.33 33.86 34.46 34.92 35.70
Arab 27.39 27.21 25.00 36.89 33.44 32.67
Bangladeshi 28.51 32.04 34.78 35.69 30.89 34.71
Chinese 22.63 20.40 26.21 27.67 25.98 24.23
Indian 31.63 30.69 31.39 33.91 33.82 34.40
Pakistani 30.95 30.77 34.36 34.49 35.89 37.91
Asian other 29.58 32.28 33.75 30.68 33.89 34.09
Black 30.07 31.84 33.27 33.46 33.33 35.44
Mixed 27.34 35.63 29.10 31.83 32.02 30.32
White 31.73 32.51 34.08 34.63 35.15 35.89
White Gypsy/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
Other 27.17 28.80 31.20 31.47 32.97 35.54

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • overall, between 2012 and 2017, the percentage of people in the UK scoring very highly (9 or 10 out of 10) for feeling their activities were worthwhile increased from 31.50% to 35.70%
  • in the same period, the percentage of White people scoring very highly for feeling their activities were worthwhile increased from 31.73% to 35.89%
  • the percentage of people from the Black and Other ethnic groups scoring very highly for feeling their activities were worthwhile also increased, from 30.07% to 35.44% and 27.17% to 35.54% respectively
  • although the chart shows variation in the percentage of adults in other ethnic groups who scored highly for this threshold, it’s not possible to draw firm conclusions about these results, because of the wide variation in responses for these groups

Feeling the things you do in your life are worthwhile, by ethnicity and socio-economic group

Average score for how worthwhile people feel their activities are, 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 7.98 8.03 7.90 7.99 7.85 7.77 7.66 7.68
Arab 8.30 7.77 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 7.42 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 7.86
Bangladeshi 8.16 7.53 8.01 7.94 7.98 7.47 7.72 7.74
Chinese 7.98 7.62 7.45 7.85 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 7.40 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 7.84
Indian 7.94 7.96 7.89 8.01 7.83 7.70 7.74 7.78
Pakistani 7.90 7.95 7.98 7.75 7.78 7.79 7.68 7.85
Asian other 7.92 7.94 7.83 7.56 7.57 7.87 7.59 7.65
Black 7.87 7.87 7.80 7.66 7.47 7.54 7.57 7.57
Mixed 7.85 7.87 7.95 7.65 7.50 7.46 7.26 7.59
White 7.98 8.05 7.91 8.02 7.86 7.80 7.66 7.68
White Gypsy/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
Other 8.11 7.92 7.77 7.83 7.94 7.45 7.64 7.51

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • White people were more likely to have higher scores for feeling their activities were worthwhile if they were in the ‘lower managerial and professional’ and ‘small employers and own account workers’ groups compared with any other socio-economic groups
  • although the table shows differences in the degree to which other groups felt their activities were worthwhile, sample sizes were too small to draw reliable conclusions about these results

Feeling the things you do in your life are worthwhile, by ethnicity and sex

Average score for how worthwhile people feel their activities are, by ethnicity and sex

Ethnicity Female Male
All 7.96 7.73
Arab 7.93 7.75
Bangladeshi 7.90 7.69
Chinese 7.81 7.69
Indian 7.90 7.84
Pakistani 8.00 7.74
Asian other 7.84 7.69
Black 7.74 7.57
Mixed 7.81 7.53
White 7.97 7.73
White Gypsy/Traveller withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Other 7.87 7.60

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • women from the Pakistani, Black, Mixed, White, and Other ethnic groups were more likely to feel their activities were worthwhile than their male counterparts in these groups; the biggest difference was found in the Mixed ethnic group, at 7.81 for women and 7.53 for men
  • there were no other meaningful differences in the degree to which men and women felt their activities were worthwhile, because of the wide variation in responses for these groups

Methodology

Methodology

This data presents the results from the question, ‘Overall, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?

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 ratings, as well as thresholds.

Personal well-being questions are asked to adults aged 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 150,000 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 to capture a range of factors which contribute to an individual's overall sense of well-being. The APS uses a number of specific approaches, including the evaluative, eudemonic, experience and individual well-being approaches.

The ‘eudemonic’ approach, sometimes referred to as the psychological or functioning/flourishing approach, draws on self-determination theory. It measures people’s feelings of meaning and purpose in life, connections with family and friends, sense of control and whether they feel part of something bigger than themselves. ‘Overall, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?’ is the eudemonic question included on the APS.

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 feeling activities are worthwhile (scoring 0 to 4)
  • medium levels of feeling activities are worthwhile (scoring 5 to 6)
  • high levels of feeling activities are worthwhile (scoring 7 to 8)
  • very high levels of feeling activities are worthwhile (scoring 9 to 10)

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 the percentage of people aged 16+ reporting very high levels of feeling the things they do in their life are worthwhile, but it’s impossible to be 100% certain of the true percentage.

It’s 95% certain, however, that somewhere between 35.36% and 36.04% of all people aged 16+ in the UK reported a very high worthwhile score in 2017. 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 26.47% and 38.87% of Arab people aged 16+ reported very high worthwhile in 2017.

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 19.89% and 28.57% for very high worthwhile, and the UK average, which had a confidence interval of between 35.36% and 36.04%.

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

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

Download the data

How worthwhile people feel their actions are - Spreadsheet (csv) 96 KB

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