Well-being: Life satisfaction

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1. Main facts and figures

  • in 2016, ethnic groups in the UK shared broadly the same level of overall life satisfaction

  • where 0 is ‘not at all satisfied’, and 10 is ‘completely satisfied’, average responses for each group ranged from 7.22 out of 10 for the Black group, to 7.81 out of 10 for the Indian group

  • between 2012 and 2016, most ethnic groups experienced increasing levels of overall life satisfaction; it’s not possible to draw firm conclusions about the increase in satisfaction for the Bangladeshi, Chinese and Other Asian ethnicities because of the wide variation in responses for these groups

  • in 2016, the Indian and Pakistani ethnic groups were more likely than the UK average to report very high levels of overall satisfaction with their lives: 32.9% and 34.2% did so respectively

  • in the same year, the Mixed ethnic and Black groups were less likely than the UK average to report very high levels of overall satisfaction with their lives: 20.7% and 24.4% did so respectively

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 satisfied are you with your life nowadays?’ 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, life satisfaction 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, life satisfaction 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 (not on behalf of the respondent).

What the data measures

The data measures people’s overall satisfaction with their lives.

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 presents the results from the question:

  • overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?

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 overall satisfaction levels of ethnic groups. It also looks at ‘thresholds’ of satisfaction within ethnic groups, measuring the percentage of people in each group who experienced:

  • low satisfaction (scoring 0 to 4)

  • medium satisfaction (scoring 5 to 6)

  • high satisfaction (scoring 7 to 8)

  • very high satisfaction (scoring 9 to 10)

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

  • overall, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?
  • 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/Multiple ethnic groups
  • Indian
  • Pakistani
  • Bangladeshi
  • Chinese
  • Other Asian Background
  • Black/African/Caribbean/Black British
  • Arab

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 opens in a new window or tab).

2. Life satisfaction by ethnicity

Average life satisfaction score by ethnicity
Ethnicity Average score
All 7.67
Bangladeshi 7.50
Chinese 7.69
Indian 7.81
Pakistani 7.68
Asian other 7.64
Black 7.22
Mixed 7.43
White 7.69
Other 7.64
Arab 7.63
Gypsy / Traveller / Irish Traveller withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable

Download table data for ‘Life satisfaction by ethnicity’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Life satisfaction by ethnicity’ (CSV)

Summary of Well-being: Life satisfaction Life satisfaction by ethnicity Summary

This data shows that:

  • in 2016, the UK average for overall life satisfaction was 7.67 out of 10, where 0 is ‘not at all satisfied’, and 10 is ‘completely satisfied’

  • the Indian group reported a score for life satisfaction which was higher than the UK average, at 7.81

  • the Black and Mixed ethnic groups reported scores for life satisfaction which were lower than the UK average, at 7.22 and 7.43 respectively

  • the other ethnic groups reported broadly average scores for overall life satisfaction

3. Life satisfaction over time by ethnicity

Average life satisfaction score by ethnicity over time
Ethnicity 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
All 7.45 7.49 7.58 7.65 7.67
Bangladeshi 7.25 7.36 7.59 7.60 7.50
Chinese 7.44 7.50 7.55 7.58 7.69
Indian 7.54 7.47 7.68 7.74 7.81
Pakistani 7.28 7.37 7.47 7.63 7.68
Asian other 7.42 7.50 7.55 7.61 7.64
Black 6.79 6.97 7.13 7.18 7.22
Mixed 7.10 7.35 7.10 7.39 7.43
White 7.48 7.52 7.60 7.67 7.69
Other 7.13 7.36 7.50 7.48 7.64
Arab 7.08 7.26 7.31 7.51 7.63
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 ‘Life satisfaction over time by ethnicity’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Life satisfaction over time by ethnicity’ (CSV)

Summary of Well-being: Life satisfaction Life satisfaction over time by ethnicity Summary

This data shows that:

  • between 2012 and 2016, most ethnic groups experienced increasing levels of overall life satisfaction; it’s not possible to draw firm conclusions about the increase in satisfaction for the Bangladeshi, Chinese and Other Asian ethnicities, because of the wide variation in responses for these groups

  • the Arab group experienced the greatest increase in life satisfaction: on average, they scored 7.08 out of 10 in 2012, and 7.63 out of 10 in 2016, an increase of 0.55

  • the White group experienced the smallest increase in life satisfaction: on average, they scored 7.48 out of 10 in 2012 and 7.69 out of 10 in 2016, an increase of 0.21

4. Life satisfaction thresholds by ethnicity

Percentage of people in each life satisfaction threshold by ethnicity
Ethnicity Very High (9-10) High (7-8) Medium (5-6) Low (0-4)
All 29.6 52.0 13.9 4.5
Bangladeshi 30.6 43.7 19.8 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Chinese 25.6 59.6 12.3 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Indian 32.9 49.7 14.8 2.5
Pakistani 34.2 45.3 15.3 5.2
Asian other 28.2 51.7 17.1 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Black 24.4 45.1 23.1 7.4
Mixed 20.7 58.1 17.2 4.0
White 29.8 52.3 13.4 4.5
Other 27.3 53.4 16.1 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Arab 33.0 45.1 15.5 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 ‘Life satisfaction thresholds by ethnicity’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Life satisfaction thresholds by ethnicity’ (CSV)

Summary of Well-being: Life satisfaction Life satisfaction thresholds by ethnicity Summary

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

  • low satisfaction (scoring 0 to 4)

  • medium satisfaction (scoring 5 to 6)

  • high satisfaction (scoring 7 to 8)

  • very high satisfaction (scoring 9 to 10)

This data shows that:

  • in the UK, on average, 29.6% of people reported ‘very high satisfaction’ with their life overall; 52% reported ‘high satisfaction’; 13.9% reported ‘medium satisfaction’; and 4.5% reported ‘low satisfaction’

  • in the Pakistani and Indian ethnic groups, a greater than UK average percentage of people reported ‘very high satisfaction’ with their life, at 34.2% and 32.9% respectively

  • although 33% of the Arab group reported very high levels of life satisfaction, it’s not possible to draw firm conclusions about this estimate, because of the wide variation in responses for this group

  • in the Black and Mixed ethnic groups, a lower than UK average percentage of people reported ‘very high satisfaction’ with their life, at 24.4% and 20.7% respectively

5. Life satisfaction by ethnicity and sex

Average life satisfaction score by ethnicity and sex
Ethnicity Female Male
All 7.62 7.56
Bangladeshi 7.69 7.40
Chinese 7.70 7.57
Indian 7.63 7.70
Pakistani 7.55 7.48
Asian other 7.64 7.53
Black 7.08 7.10
Mixed other 7.21 7.31
White 7.65 7.58
Other 7.49 7.47
Arab 7.21 7.39
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 ‘Life satisfaction by ethnicity and sex’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Life satisfaction by ethnicity and sex’ (CSV)

Summary of Well-being: Life satisfaction Life satisfaction by ethnicity and sex Summary

This data shows that:

  • in 2016, White women reported higher average scores for life satisfaction than White men; women scored 7.65 out of 10, and men scored 7.58 out of 10

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

6. Life satisfaction by ethnicity and socio-economic group

Average life satisfaction 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 7.84 7.74 7.64 7.61 7.60 7.43 7.39 7.48
Bangladeshi 7.60 7.48 7.50 7.85 7.81 6.98 7.54 7.60
Chinese 7.66 7.53 7.48 7.80 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 7.31 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 7.78
Indian 7.82 7.70 7.59 7.57 7.52 7.58 7.66 7.63
Pakistani 7.76 7.70 7.47 7.34 7.60 7.60 7.16 7.47
Asian other 7.96 7.60 7.55 7.32 7.40 7.73 7.55 7.49
Black 7.46 7.13 6.99 7.12 7.03 6.91 6.94 7.11
Mixed 7.55 7.38 7.22 7.15 7.28 7.26 7.10 7.13
White 7.86 7.77 7.67 7.64 7.62 7.45 7.41 7.49
Other 7.78 7.44 7.45 7.50 7.62 7.35 7.50 7.43
Arab 7.70 7.63 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 6.88 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 7.31
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 ‘Life satisfaction by ethnicity and socio-economic group’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Life satisfaction by ethnicity and socio-economic group’ (CSV)

Summary of Well-being: Life satisfaction Life satisfaction by ethnicity and socio-economic group Summary

This data shows that:

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

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

7. Methodology

This data presents the results from the question, ‘Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?’

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 people 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 ‘evaluative’ approach asks individuals to step back and reflect on their lives and make a cognitive assessment of how their lives are going overall, or how certain aspects of their lives are going. ‘Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?’ is the evaluative question included in 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 satisfaction (scoring 0 to 4)

  • medium satisfaction (scoring 5 to 6)

  • high satisfaction (scoring 7 to 8)

  • very high satisfaction (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+ with very high life satisfaction, but it’s impossible to be 100% certain of the true percentage.

It’s 95% certain, however, that somewhere between 29.3% and 30.0% of all people aged 16+ in the UK reported very high life satisfaction 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 26.3% and 39.7% 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 Indian ethnic group, which had a confidence interval of between 30.5% and 35.3%, and the UK average, which had a confidence interval of between 29.3% and 30.0%.

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 Guide (PDF opens in a new window or tab)

8. 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

9. Download the data

Life satisfaction - Spreadsheet (csv) 102 KB

This file contains the following: ethnicity, year, gender, NS-SEC (socio-economic group), income, value, denominator, confidence intervals