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Poor health does not preclude a happy life, though it does increase the odds against it

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e5073 (Published 25 July 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e5073
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. 1London

The first results of the programme to measure national wellbeing in the United Kingdom show that 40% of people who rate their own health as bad or very bad nevertheless also report medium to high levels of satisfaction with life.

The statisticians from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which is responsible for the programme,1 were surprised that ill health did not have a greater effect on satisfaction, but there is no denying that good health makes a difference: 80% of people whose health was good or very good reported medium to high levels of life satisfaction, twice the proportion of those whose health was poor.

So far, the nascent programme does not yet allow any deeper explanation of causes, except for a few obvious ones, such as a clear link between unemployment and low life satisfaction.

It remains unclear, for example, why people of black Caribbean or African origin profess the lowest level of life satisfaction of any ethnic group (6.7 of a possible 10, compared with a score of 7.4 for white people), why the people of Rutland and of Bath and north east Somerset are so indecently satisfied …

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