Latest UK well-being stats: what do they tell us?
Photo credit: tricky (rick harrison)
October 23, 2013 // By: Saamah Abdallah
Almost a year ago we revealed striking patterns for well-being in the UK, based on the Office for National Statistics’ Annual Population Survey. We found big differences in well-being between those parts of the country that were doing best and those that were doing worst.
For example, whilst only one in five (20%) people had low well-being on the Islands of Scotland, the proportion was almost double that (37%) in parts of the Welsh valleys. We also found there is more to well-being than material living standards. According to the ONS, Hull and Blackpool are at similar levels of material deprivation. And yet the proportion of people with high well-being in the former town is 17% higher.
Today, the ONS has provided more detailed breakdowns, allowing us to look at well-being right down to the Local Authority level across the UK. Data is available for both 2011/12 and 2012/13, creating an evidence goldmine for local authorities and health and well-being boards.
Which areas have the highest well-being? Which areas have the lowest well-being? And which areas have seen the biggest drops or rises in well-being over the last year? We’ve only just started exploring the data, but our initial findings show that:
- The highest well-being in the UK in 2012/13 was in Fermanagh in the south west corner of Northern Ireland. The average life satisfaction score there was 8.2 on a scale of 0 to 10 (compared to the UK average of 7.45), and anxiety levels there were the lowest across the UK.
- The lowest levels of well-being in 2012/13 were found to be in Harlow in Essex – with an average life satisfaction score of 6.8. The data shows a significant drop in well-being from their 2011/12 score.
- Which places are doing much better than might be expected based on traditional economic analysis? Well, Copeland on the Cumbrian coastline is ranked amongst the 25% most deprived local authorities in England, and yet average life satisfaction there has been above the UK average for both years of the survey. Ipswich, Weymouth and North Devon also have higher well-being than might be expected according to traditional economic analysis.
- At the other end of the spectrum, we wonder what is happening in Brentwood, Colchester and North Warwickshire – all areas with relatively low deprivation, but much lower well-being than one would expect. Colchester, for example, is amongst the least deprived areas in the UK – and yet life satisfaction was only 7.1 out of 10 in 2012/13, significantly lower than the national average.
- In some cases similar local authorities show very different results. What explains the differences in well-being between Merton and Bromley, two south Outer London boroughs? Average levels of deprivation are similarly low in these two boroughs, and yet average life satisfaction in Merton is 7.2 whilst in Bromley it’s 7.6.
- The ONS has reported overall rises in well-being in the year to 2012/13, but are there places which have seen well-being falling during this period? We found significant drops in life satisfaction in various places including Dundee and Chichester. We also found rising anxiety in many more areas including Somerset, Reading, the London Boroughs of Brent and Harrow, Sevenoaks, and Belfast.
- Lastly, we wonder what is happening in Hart in northern Hampshire. True, it is one of the wealthiest corners of the country, and it has the lowest levels of deprivation in England. But what can explain the huge increase in well-being there between 2011/12 and 2012/13, with life satisfaction jumping from 7.3 out of 10 in 2011/12 (which was slightly below average), to 8.1 out of 10 in 2012/13?
These are all preliminary analyses, and proper analysis will require the micro-data which the ONS will release in six weeks’ time. These initial findings raise some questions though (and hopefully some answers as well) for local authorities looking to navigate the challenging times ahead, and striving to improve the well-being of their residents despite severe budget cuts.
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