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

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1. Main facts and figures

  • in 2016, adults in the Bangladeshi and Black ethnic groups scored lower than the national average when asked if they felt their activities were worthwhile; the scores of other ethnic groups were in line with the national average

  • women from the Bangladeshi, Black, Mixed and White ethnic groups were more likely to feel their activities were worthwhile than men of these ethnicities

  • between 2012 and 2016, most ethnic groups saw an increase in how worthwhile they felt their activities were; it’s not possible to draw firm conclusions about the Bangladeshi, Chinese, Mixed and Other Asian ethnicities, 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:

  • overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?
  • overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?
  • 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.

  • White
  • Gypsy / Traveller / Irish Traveller
  • Mixed
  • Indian
  • Pakistani
  • Bangladeshi
  • Chinese
  • Asian other
  • Black
  • Arab
  • 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) (PDF opens in a new window or tab).

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

Activities are worthwhile average score by ethnicity
Ethnicity Average score
All 7.85
Bangladeshi 7.65
Chinese 7.74
Indian 7.90
Pakistani 7.86
Asian other 7.82
Black / African / Caribbean / Black British 7.65
Mixed 7.72
White 7.86
Other ethnic group 7.81
Arab 7.75
Gypsy / Traveller / Irish Traveller withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable

Download table data for ‘Feeling the things you do in your life are worthwhile, by ethnicity’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Feeling the things you do in your life are worthwhile, by ethnicity’ (CSV)

Summary of Well-being: how worthwhile people feel the things they do in their life are Feeling the things you do in your life are worthwhile, by ethnicity Summary

This data shows that:

  • the Bangladeshi and Black ethnic groups reported lower than average levels of feeling their activities were worthwhile – both scored 7.65 out of 10, compared to a national average of 7.85 out of 10

  • for all other ethnic groups, scores for feeling their activities were worthwhile were around the national average of 7.85 out of 10

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

Activities are worthwhile average score, by ethnicity over time
Ethnicity 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
All 7.70 7.73 7.80 7.84 7.85
Bangladeshi 7.44 7.62 7.76 7.79 7.65
Chinese 7.43 7.47 7.75 7.66 7.74
Indian 7.71 7.73 7.76 7.88 7.90
Pakistani 7.53 7.61 7.75 7.81 7.86
Asian other 7.56 7.62 7.78 7.70 7.82
Black / African / Caribbean / Black British 7.47 7.59 7.64 7.69 7.65
Mixed 7.46 7.67 7.52 7.69 7.72
White 7.72 7.74 7.81 7.85 7.86
Other ethnic group 7.41 7.46 7.66 7.72 7.81
Arab 7.19 7.33 7.48 7.77 7.75
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 for ‘Feeling the things you do in your life are worthwhile, by ethnicity over time’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Feeling the things you do in your life are worthwhile, by ethnicity over time’ (CSV)

Summary of Well-being: how worthwhile people feel the things they do in their life are Feeling the things you do in your life are worthwhile, by ethnicity over time Summary

  • the Arab, Black, Indian, Pakistani, White and Other ethnic groups all saw an overall increase between 2012 and 2016 in how worthwhile they felt their activities were, with the Arab group seeing the biggest increase in score (from 7.19 out of 10 to 7.75 out of 10)

  • 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

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

Percentage of adults in each worthwhile threshold, by ethnicity
Ethnicity Very High (9-10) High (7-8) Medium (5-6) Low (0-4)
All 34.9 49.0 12.5 3.6
Bangladeshi 30.9 45.6 20.1 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Chinese 26.0 58.2 14.4 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Indian 33.8 51.7 12.5 2.1
Pakistani 35.9 46.8 13.1 4.2
Asian other 33.9 49.0 14.3 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Black 33.3 44.0 18.3 4.4
Mixed 32.0 48.7 15.7 3.6
White 35.2 49.1 12.1 3.7
Other 33.0 48.8 15.5 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Arab 33.4 48.7 13.2 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
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 for ‘Feeling the things you do in your life are worthwhile thresholds, by ethnicity’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Feeling the things you do in your life are worthwhile thresholds, by ethnicity’ (CSV)

Summary of Well-being: how worthwhile people feel the things they do in their life are Feeling the things you do in your life are worthwhile thresholds, by ethnicity 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:

  • the percentage of people in the Chinese ethnic group scoring very highly for feeling their activities were worthwhile was lower than the national average (26.0% compared to 34.9%)

  • 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 national average

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

Percentage of adults in the ‘very high’ worthwhile threshold, by ethnicity over time
Ethnicity 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
All 31.5 32.3 33.9 34.5 34.9
Bangladeshi 28.5 32.0 34.8 35.7 30.9
Chinese 22.6 20.4 26.2 27.7 26.0
Indian 31.6 30.7 31.4 33.9 33.8
Pakistani 31.0 30.8 34.4 34.5 35.9
Asian other 29.6 32.3 33.8 30.7 33.9
Black 30.1 31.8 33.3 33.5 33.3
Mixed other 27.3 35.6 29.1 31.8 32.0
White 31.7 32.5 34.1 34.6 35.2
Other 27.2 28.8 31.2 31.5 33.0
Arab 27.4 27.2 25.0 36.9 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 for ‘‘Very high’ levels of feeling the things you do in your life are worthwhile, by ethnicity over time’ (CSV) Source data for ‘‘Very high’ levels of feeling the things you do in your life are worthwhile, by ethnicity over time’ (CSV)

Summary of Well-being: how worthwhile people feel the things they do in their life are ‘Very high’ levels of feeling the things you do in your life are worthwhile, by ethnicity over time Summary

This data shows that:

  • the percentage of White people scoring very highly for feeling their activities were worthwhile increased from 31.7% to 35.2% between 2012 and 2016

  • 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

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

Activities are worthwhile average 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 7.98 7.99 7.86 7.94 7.77 7.74 7.60 7.65
Bangladeshi 7.97 7.66 7.87 8.10 7.59 7.14 7.85 7.68
Chinese 7.84 7.69 7.54 7.53 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 7.42 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 7.82
Indian 7.98 7.86 7.87 7.77 7.61 7.66 7.63 7.72
Pakistani 7.93 7.96 7.79 7.59 7.52 7.82 7.73 7.70
Asian other 8.07 7.86 7.86 7.58 7.67 7.79 7.72 7.59
Black 7.95 7.84 7.72 7.64 7.45 7.48 7.53 7.56
Mixed other 7.74 7.90 7.72 7.55 7.53 7.54 7.36 7.45
White 7.98 8.01 7.87 7.97 7.79 7.76 7.60 7.65
Other 7.98 7.86 7.62 7.73 7.64 7.59 7.60 7.49
Arab 8.20 7.85 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 7.15 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 7.58
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 for ‘Feeling the things you do in your life are worthwhile, by ethnicity and socio-economic group’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Feeling the things you do in your life are worthwhile, by ethnicity and socio-economic group’ (CSV)

Summary of Well-being: how worthwhile people feel the things they do in their life are Feeling the things you do in your life are worthwhile, by ethnicity and socio-economic group Summary

This data shows that:

  • there were no meaningful differences between ethnic groups in the scores for feeling their activities were worthwhile reported by people in different socio-economic groups

  • although the table shows differences in the degree to which different groups felt their activities were worthwhile, sample sizes were too small to draw reliable conclusions about these results

7. Feeling the things you do in your life are worthwhile, by ethnicity and gender

Activities are worthwhile average score, by ethnicity and gender
Ethnicity Female Male
All 7.92 7.68
Bangladeshi 7.90 7.52
Chinese 7.74 7.65
Indian 7.83 7.79
Pakistani 7.87 7.68
Asian other 7.83 7.67
Black 7.72 7.54
Mixed 7.76 7.46
White 7.94 7.69
Other 7.76 7.57
Arab 7.67 7.51
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 for ‘Feeling the things you do in your life are worthwhile, by ethnicity and gender’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Feeling the things you do in your life are worthwhile, by ethnicity and gender’ (CSV)

Summary of Well-being: how worthwhile people feel the things they do in their life are Feeling the things you do in your life are worthwhile, by ethnicity and gender Summary

This data shows that:

  • women from the Bangladeshi, Black, Mixed and White ethnic groups were more likely to feel their activities were worthwhile than their male counterparts in these groups, with the biggest difference (7.90 for women compared to 7.52 for men) found in the Bangladeshi group

  • there were no meaningful differences in the degree to which men and women in other ethnic groups felt their activities were worthwhile, because of the wide variation in responses for these groups

8. 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 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 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 34.6% and 35.3% of all people aged 16+ in the UK reported a very high worthwhile score 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 26.9% and 39.9% 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 21.6% and 30.4%, and the UK average, which had a confidence interval of between 34.6% and 35.3%.

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 opens in a new window or tab)

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
  • support government policy making
  • give individuals data they can use to make informed decisions
  • make comparisons between the UK and other countries

10. 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