January 24, 2009 / 2:15 AM / 11 years ago

Britain lags behind in well-being study

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain has been ranked 13th in a survey of personal well-being in Europe that found Denmark, Switzerland and Austria the nicest places to live.

A couple are silhouetted in front of the Tower Bridge during foggy conditions in London December 23, 2007. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Think-tank the New Economics Foundation (NEF) said on Saturday that rising economic pressures and a highly individualistic culture had made Britain a less pleasant country.

It found young people in Britain aged between 16-24 had the lowest level of trust and belonging in Europe.

“The UK’s long hours culture and record levels of personal debt have squeezed out opportunities for individuals, families and communities to make choices and pursue activities that would best promote personal and social well-being,” said NEF’S Nic Marks.

NEF researchers analysed data from more than 40,000 interviews conducted in 2006 and 2007 by a European Commission- funded social survey to draw up a ranking of well-being across 22 countries.

Marks said data such as gross domestic product (GDP) — an indicator of economic output — failed to measure a society’s happiness.

“This is a crucial policy issue. We should not focus on physical things or GDP, but rather on how to build social connections among young people in the UK,” he told Reuters.

The think tank said removing inequalities in income distribution, shorter working hours, and mobilizing young people to engage in their communities would all boost British well-being.

It defined personal well-being as a combination of “satisfaction, vitality, self-esteem and a sense of purpose and meaning.”

The countries found to have the worst well-being were Ukraine, Bulgaria and Hungary.

Reporting by Martina Fuchs, Editing by Tim Castle

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