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Media centre home > News > New report shows money can't buy happiness

Issued:20/03/15

It's long been argued that money alone can't buy happiness and a major new study by Sheffield Hallam University confirms this by looking at the UK's wellbeing according to ethnicity rather than economics alone.

Ethnicity, neighbourhood deprivation and quality of life, has for the first time explored how Office for National Statistics well-being data varies across different ethnic and cultural populations in the UK.

The report comes ahead of International Day of Happiness which is celebrated throughout the world today and was established by the United Nations as a resolution calling to give happiness greater priority. 

The research team, led by Sheffield Hallam's Dr Anil Gumber, have revealed the different factors that make Britain's diverse population happy, and surprisingly income plays little part.

The report analyses people's feelings of happiness, satisfaction with life; worthwhileness of their activity; and anxiety levels, against ethnicity and cultural background.

Findings show that different factors affecting happiness, such as age, whether you are a smoker, education, and marital status, have more of an impact on certain populations than others.

Dr Gumbar said: "The statistics show that whereas good health is a factor which has a strong impact on the wellbeing of all ethnicities, interestingly, Black people garner more happiness from home ownership than other populations. And how worthwhile Asian people feel is impacted more by the region in which they live compared to White and Black people.

"Depressingly, the results also show that all Black and minority ethnic groups experience a lower level of overall wellbeing than White British people."

The research follows the launch of The National Wellbeing Programme in 2010 which aims to measure the UK's prosperity by the quality of life and overall wellbeing of its residents, rather than GDP alone.

Dr Gumbar said: "The income disparity in the UK is increasing; however, wellbeing levels are not. Therefore, it has become apparent that economic factors are not affecting happiness and life satisfaction in the way we previously thought they were.

"For the first time we have explored how the wellbeing data varies across different ethnic and cultural populations in the UK. Our findings showed that different ethnicities and cultural populations draw happiness from different means. So, if we are to effectively increase the happiness and wellbeing of UK residents, we need to target different communities with different strategies. The government needs to invest in the right areas to achieve national happiness."

The findings of the paper have been commended by the Economic and Social Research Council and could go on to influence government social policy on wellbeing. 

Notes to Editors:The report Ethnicity, neighbourhood deprivation and quality of life can be downloaded at http://www.better-health.org.uk/node/3078

For press information: PR officer Nicole Kelly in the Sheffield Hallam University press office on 0114 225 2811 or email n.kelly@shu.ac.uk