diamond geezer

 Thursday, October 24, 2013

How happy would you say you are? That's on a scale from zero to ten, with zero being "not at all" and ten being "completely". Picked a number? Great, now let's carry on.

The Office for National Statistics asked Britons from all across the country how happy they are, and crunched the numbers to create a sort of "happiness index". Yesterday they published their latest report, and it turns out that Londoners are some of the least happy people in the UK. Those living in the North East had a lower happiness score but everyone else beat London, with Northern Ireland coming out on top. Scotland is happier than Wales, apparently, and both of those countries are happier than England. I wonder how unhappy that makes you feel.

It's possible to dig down a little deeper into London's happiness figures and explore happiness by borough. So I've done precisely that, and here's a map, with purple the happiest colour and cream the unhappiest.

Look how happy the residents of Kensington and Chelsea are. They're the only borough to score over 7½, which is probably because they're well-to-do and comfortable and secure. But see how unhappy neighbouring Hammersmith and Fulham is, which'll be Shepherd's Bush dragging the area down. And Islington, which'll be all that middle-class angst. And Lambeth, which perhaps doesn't surprise you. And Barking and Dagenham, because it's Barking and Dagenham. Meanwhile look at that red ring of contentedness around outer London. Specifically outer West London, because things aren't quite so happy out in outer east London. Apart from Bromley, that is, where they enjoy rural living. And inner London's not a happy place at all, as you'd expect. Except the City is. And Tower Hamlets is and Newham is, which doesn't quite make sense does it? In fact all the conclusions I've drawn above are drivel, because this entire map is mostly patternless, so you can read pretty much what you like into it.

Let's rewind a little and look at the precise figures. The average happiness score in London is actually 7.21. Meanwhile the average in the North East is 7.17, which seems an extraordinarily accurate figure for a "pick a number from zero to ten" statistic. Perhaps one decimal place might be more realistic, in which case both regions come out the same at 7.2. Meanwhile England scored 7.28, Wales scored 7.29 and Scotland scored 7.32, and they're all almost exactly the same too. Around 7.3. Just over 7. About 7 out of 10. Indeed every single district in Britain comes out as "about 7" (or in special places 8). We're all pretty much as happy as each other, so to try to compare Liverpool's 6.79 with the Orkneys' 8.01 feels somewhat forced.

Now let's go back and review London's precise figures. Kensington and Chelsea scored a maximum 7.51. All the red boroughs on the map managed somewhere between 7¼ and 7½, the pink between 7 and 7¼, and the four cream boroughs dribbled in just below 7. The ONS did ask thirteen thousand Londoners for their opinions, which gives the figures some statistical credibility. But the whole idea of measuring happiness to two decimal places is patently ridiculous. Essentially the whole of London scored about 7 out of 10, and Newham isn't really much happier than Barking and Dagenham, that's just a stupid statistic.

Let's see what the media made of the data on anxiety.
"People living in London are on average the most anxious in the UK, new figures suggest. More than one in five Londoners questioned by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said they had high anxiety levels. The ONS asked people to rate their life satisfaction and personal wellbeing on a scale of zero to ten - zero being "not at all" and ten being "completely". Londoners rated their anxiety as 3.3, which was the highest average rating for anxiety in the UK. The average rating across the UK was 3."
That's a BBC story from yesterday, which makes Londoners out to be inherently more anxious than the rest of the country. And yet the whole of the UK scored roughly 3, apart from a few calm spots scoring 2 (well done Wolverhampton) and a handful of paranoid boltholes on 4 (hmmm, Horsham, West Sussex). We're all roughly 3. Even if the fine detail suggests otherwise, there is no news story here.

Next let's look at the London anxiety map...

Again purple areas are the most anxious and cream the least. See how the wealthier boroughs of west London are hotbeds of anxiety (apart from those that aren't). See how north Londoners are the least anxious (apart from those who aren't). See how Hackney is very anxious (but, oh, Tower Hamlets nextdoor isn't). And see how the City of London is, er, blank (the survey only asked four people in the City, so there's no reliable data). The ONS recognise that their confidence values aren't great, and have been up-front in stating these in the table. But that's not stopped various people pontificating about the headline figures and making judgements that are wholly unfounded.
Dawn Snape, head of personal wellbeing at the ONS, said: "London has the most disposable income but very little life satisfaction and very high anxiety." The ONS said a number of factors could contribute to the ratings, including the fact that London had the highest crime rates and the highest population growth.
Oh please. London does not have "very little life satisfaction" - it averaged 7.3 on that score whereas the whole of England averaged 7.4. Neither does London have "very high anxiety" - we scored 3.3 to England's 3.1. No, instead someone's asking damned stupid questions, looking for depth in data where really there are only broad brush trends.

What's sad is that someone thinks the happiness of the nation can be measured, and compared, and tracked over time, by asking a subjective "zero to ten" question. We can't blame the ONS, they're only doing their job, indeed they did lots of research to try to come up with a convincing methodology. Instead the original idea was proposed by the government, seeking some way of gauging wellbeing in addition to the normal economic data. An intriguing idea, potentially, but instead we've ended up with a blunt instrument that proves nothing being taken far too seriously. Northern Ireland may be happier than London, to one decimal place, but attempting to argue why for political effect is wholly subjective and ripe for misinterpretation.

Instead let's just smile. We're all about 7 happy and 3 anxious. It could be much worse.

» Measuring National Well-being (ONS)
» Personal Well-being Across the UK, 2012/13 (ONS)
» Fairly meaningless maps; fairly meaningless graphs; more fairly meaningless graphs

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this month?
28 Jan – 23 Apr (10am-4.30pm)
Sussex Modernism
The sixth annual exhibition at Two Temple Place focuses on radical art/writing in Sussex, and is damned excellent.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Feb17  Jan17
Dec16 Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards