The 33 things that will make you happy...and the seven that definitely won't
Academics have come up with the definitive list of what makes Britons happy after rating more than a million responses
Published 04/02/2016 | 10:14
A weekend relaxing, reading a book or playing with the children might seem like the perfect recipe for contentment but none of those things actually make Britons very happy, scientists have concluded.
Instead, we are much more likely to enjoy birdwatching, gardening, the theatre or going for a run, according to a new study by the University of Sussex and the London School of Economics.
Mooching around a museum perks us up almost as much as sex, the University of Sussex found, while solitary pottering on the allotment is preferable to socialising.
Meditating, fishing, going to church, watching the match and exercising all make people happier than spending time with their children.
In fact, an afternoon with the kids ranks only slightly higher than taking the dog for a walk for boosting contentment. And workers tended to enjoy being in the office more if they had children at home.
To find what makes Britain happy, researchers asked more than 20,000 people to download an app which sent them a ‘ping’ at various times of day, and invited them to record their happiness levels and what they were doing at the time.
The team then analysed more than one million responses. And here are the results:
The 33 things that definitely make us happy (% increased happiness)
1.Intimacy, making love 14.20%
2.Theatre, dance, concert 9.29%
3.Exhibition, museum, library 8.77%
4.Sports, running, exercise 8.12%
5.Gardening, allotment 7.83%
6.Singing, performing 6.95%
7.Talking, chatting, socialising 6.38%
8.Birdwatching, nature watching 6.28%
9.Walking, hiking 6.18%
10.Hunting, fishing 5.82%
11.Drinking alcohol 5.73%
12.Hobbies, arts, crafts 5.53%
13.Meditating, religious activities 4.95%
14.Match, sporting event 4.39%
15.Childcare, playing with children 4.10%
16.Pet care, playing with pets 3.63%
17.Listening to music 3.56%
18.Other games, puzzles 3.07%
19.Shopping, errands 2.74%
20.Gambling, betting 2.62%
21.Watching TV, film 2.55%
22.Computer games, iPhone games 2.39%
23.Eating, snacking 2.38%
24.Cooking, preparing food 2.14%
25.Drinking tea/coffee 1.83%
27.Listening to speech/podcast 1.41%
28.Washing, dressing, grooming 1.18%
29.Sleeping, resting, relaxing 1.08%
31.Browsing the Internet 0.59%
32.Texting, email, social media 0.56%
33.Housework, chores, DIY 0.65%
And the seven things that definitely won't (% increased happiness)
1.Travelling, commuting -1.47%
2.In a meeting, seminar, class -1.50%
3.Admin, finances, organising -2.45%
4.Waiting, queueing -3.51%
5.Care or help for adults -4.30%
6.Working, studying -5.43%
7.Sick in bed -20.4%
The biggest drop in happiness was seen when people were at work, when their base level of contentment dropped by eight percentage points.
University of Sussex economist Dr George MacKerron, who created the ‘Mappiness' app, said the technology had shown for the first time what people really feel.
“Mappiness is interesting because it quizzes people in the moment, before they get a chance to reach for their rose-tinted glasses,” said said Dr MacKerron.
“For example, it is common to hear people say that they enjoy their work, but the Mappiness data show that people are happier doing almost anything other than working.
“Although we may be positive about our jobs when reflecting on the meaning and purpose they give us, and the money they provide, actually engaging in paid work comes at a significant psychological cost.
“It appears that work is highly negatively associated with momentary wellbeing. At any given moment, we would rather be doing almost anything else.”
The most pleasurable experience reported by app users is lovemaking or intimacy, which boosted happiness levels by 14 per cent, followed by leisure activities, such as going to the theatre, visiting a museum or playing sport.
The data also debunks the myth that Brits love to queue – waiting or queueing is the fifth most unpopular activity.
The average user responded on around 60 separate occasions, allowing the researchers to build an accurate picture over time, compared to a single survey that can only really offer a momentary snapshot.
However, the researchers caution that, as might be expected from a smartphone-based study, the respondents were generally wealthier, younger and more likely to be employed or in full-time education than the UK population as a whole.
The research was published in The Economic Journal.