Talk To The Hand: Why We Don't Need To Be Told How Unhappy We Are

04/08/2014 14:26 | Updated 22 May 2015

Do you remember the last time you were feeling, I don't know, about five-and-a-half out of 10, and some idiot said to you: "Smile, it might never happen!"? You wanted to punch them in the chops, right?

Well, I felt that exact same fist-curling sensation this week when I read about the results of a ridiculous survey conducted by price comparison website uSwitch, which told we Brits: 'you are officially living in the most depressing country in Europe! But chin up, you won't die [quite] as young as the Poles do!'

uSwitch has been reporting the results of its Quality of Life Index for three years. Using various markers, such as working hours, cost of living, retirement age, hours of sunshine and so on, it ranks 10 countries in terms of how happy they must be. And we are not very happy at all. In fact, we are the least cheery of everyone – the survey showed that only five per cent of Britons described themselves as happy and one in 10 would happily leave right now.

Great! So, what shall we do with that information exactly (other than screw up the paper on which it is printed, stuff it in our mouths and attempt to asphyxiate ourselves with it)? The only point to a survey like this is to give whatever random company is behind it some cheap PR with whatever headline grabbing 'revelation' they can eek out of the results.

Another UK firm, Family Investments, stuck their oar in this week too, telling the majority of the UK's parents that they are not doing the absolute best they can for their children – because they don't live in Winkleigh, in Devon.

Having ranked 2,400 postcodes on 60 factors relating to education, safety, property, population and amenities, their conclusion was that the village between Exmoor and Dartmoor is the number one place in England and Wales to raise a family. The 1,800 or so residents, as reported by the Guardian, were delighted (and 'not that surprised') to hear they had got it bang on.

Not very good news for the 53 million or so other residents of England and Wales though is it? Given that we can not all fit into Winkleigh, our children will just have to make do with the crappy lot we have provided for them I suppose. Of course that's not really true, but in these worrying times, I am really tired of reading surveys designed to make us feel worse than we do already.

At least one recent sobering report, released by Unicef this time, had some clear advice. It was attempting to explain why a survey in 2007 had shown children in the UK were the least happy in Europe. Having researched how families here compare with families in Spain and Sweden, it has concluded that parents and children in the UK are trapped in a materialistic culture.

Kids, Unicef believes, might be happier if parents just spent their time with them, rather than working all the hours god sends to buy them the latest gadgets. Makes sense to me – but then quite a lot of people are currently working all the hours god sends to keep up with their energy and food bills.

Of course, we'll have a more official picture of the state of the nation's wellbeing in 2012 when David Cameron reveals the results of his happiness index. I can't help but wonder whether, in the light of all that has happened since coming into power, Mr Cameron wishes he'd never taken the opener to that can of worms. Still, perhaps he'll have something more useful to say on the subject than the likes of uSwitch. One can only hope!


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