Britons said their life satisfaction fell last autumn compared with the year before as concerns about future employment prospects grew, according to an official measure of well-being.
The Office for National Statistics’ measure of average life satisfaction decreased by 0.7 per cent in the three months to September — a time of political turbulence over Brexit — compared with a year earlier. The average ratings for the feeling that things done in life are “worthwhile” decreased by 0.5 per cent.
The ONS said this was the first time it had recorded a fall in both life satisfaction and feeling that things done in life were worthwhile since it started measuring them in 2011. The measure was launched by former prime minister David Cameron to obtain other measures of happiness besides economic growth.
The ONS also said on Thursday that people’s concerns about the general economic outlook continued to grow up to September 2019, reaching their highest level since late 2011.
Average anxiety ratings remained at an “elevated” level in the quarter to September 2019, with around 10.6 million people reporting high anxiety. Expectations about the economy were reflected in real household spending per person, which grew at its slowest annualised rate since the end of 2016. On average, people spent less on cars in over the period than they did in 2016, with spending on recreation and culture, and utilities growing more slowly over the same time.
“This is the first time that ratings of life satisfaction significantly fell,” ONS researchers said. “It is the first significant change since early 2015 in what was a stable picture of life satisfaction in the UK.
“After this period, average life satisfaction ratings reached a plateau, with fluctuations quarter on quarter but no significant changes up to their deterioration in the latest quarter.”
Meanwhile figures from the organisation for Economic Cooperation and development showed that the UK was the only member of the Group of 7 (G7) rich nations to suffer a fall in people’s average income.
The OECD, known as the rich countries’ think tank, said real household income per capita contracted significantly in the third quarter of 2019, by minus 0.7 per cent, unwinding much of the 0.9 per cent growth recorded in the previous three months.
In fact, the UK was the only country where growth in real household income per capita was outpaced by economic growth per head, meaning that Britons’ personal incomes fell even as the economy grew [see graph].
Households income per person grew by 1.5 per cent during the two years to September 2019, just half the average of 3.0 per cent for the G7 as whole.
A barometer of consumer confidence among British consumers also fell in October. However, the January reading by GfK’s long-running Consumer Confidence Index increased two points to minus nine for January adding to evidence to an upturn in spirits decision the General Election.