People tend to be at their happiest at 16 and then 70 years old, according to a new study by a UK-based think tank released on Wednesday. The Resolution Foundation analysed official data to asses higher and lower well-being, levels of which it found to vary significantly depending on someone's age, income level, housing tenure, and where they live.
"The report finds that well-being levels - which include happiness, life satisfaction, self-worth and lack of anxiety - generally fall between someone's mid-20s and early 50s, and then start rising again until people reach their 70s. On the basis of age alone, the key to happiness is to be 16 or 70," the think tank notes.
It calls on policy-makers who want to boost well-being to dig deeper into what drives those improvements. A secure job, a home of your own, and more money, particularly for low-income households, are all key drivers of higher well-being, and should, therefore, be prioritised.
"Well-being matters to all of us, and yet we've only recently started to collect serious data on how happy people are with their lives. This important data shows that there is more to life than a country's GDP, but that the employment and income trends that lie behind our economy can make a big difference to our well-being too," said George Bangham, Research and Policy Analyst at the Resolution Foundation.
"It is encouraging that a growing number of policy-makers are interested in boosting well-being. But their focus on the new objective should complement, rather than replace, priorities such as income redistribution, better jobs, and secure housing. The evidence suggests that these core economic policies are effective ways to raise well-being," he said.
The report, ‘Happy Now', finds that the most important determinants of well-being are having good health, a job and a partner, but that levels of well-being also vary significantly depending on someone's age, income level, housing tenure, and neighbourhood. Higher-income households unsurprisingly report higher well-being. However, the relationship between income and well-being is not linear and extra 1,000 pounds of income delivers a far greater well-being boost to a household with 10,000 pounds, compared to one with 100,000 pounds.
This might reinforce the case for redistributive policies, says the Foundation.Workers enjoy higher well-being than unemployed or economically inactive people, while the negative well-being change associated with losing a job is bigger than the positive change associated with finding one. The report notes too that permanent contracts and control of working hours are also associated with higher well-being, suggesting that quantity and quality matter when it comes to work.Having good health is the most significant determinant of well-being.
The think-tank concludes that the importance of stronger income growth, higher employment, better jobs and increasing homeownership in boosting well-being reinforce the need for policy-makers to focus on these issues.It adds that while it has become fashionable for some social scientists to say that well-being should replace core economic metrics such as GDP growth, the evidence shows that it is a complement to, rather than a replacement for, a focus on economic growth, housing, employment and pay.