“Wellbeing index points way to bliss: live on a remote island, and don’t work”… reports the Guardian.
“People who are married, have jobs and own their own homes are the most likely to be satisfied with their lives” cries the BBC.
“The wellbeing survey is pointless and creepy. Cameron should leave cheering us up to entertainers” moans the Daily Mail… and slap my face but I agree! Yes… with the Daily
Call me sad but I downloaded a copy of the data tables as soon as the BBC published their analysis. I have a thing about data and the ease in which it’s manipulated…
The dangerous thing about data is that it’s quite often what you want it to be. The technical term is ‘framing’. How you present a piece of information can profoundly influence how others receive it.
The BBC reported- “Some 45% of unemployed people rated their “life satisfaction” as below 7 out of 10“… not necessarily an untruth but how ‘sexy’ would this seem, in an economic climate of austerity, if they made another statement like; 55% of the 7392 unemployed people surveyed rated their “life satisfaction” above 7 out of 10? Also true but slightly contradictory to the doom and gloom of recent times, so clearly not newsworthy.
More importantly there are 2.63 Million people unemployed in the UK. The sample size of 7392 barely reflects 1% of this cohort. Statistically speaking some may find this acceptable but, in my mind, it’s hard to reconcile that less than 1% of any given population speaks accurately for the remaining 99%+….
The survey also quotes many averages. If you work with data daily you already know the problem with averages.
They hide so much ‘real‘ information.
Some of the averages from the survey suggest;
- UK Arabs, Bangladeshi and Pakistanis are more anxious
- Black/African/Caribbean/Black British are less satisfied with their lives
- Women are more satisfied with their lives nowadays than men are
- People who live in Eilean Siar, Orkney & Shetland are the happiest in the UK
- 321 UK Arabs were surveyed. 53% did not feel anxious yesterday. 47% did. There is no supporting explanation for why respondents felt anxious yesterday.
- 3219 Black/African/Caribbean/Black British were surveyed. Note that “the African categories used in Scotland could potentially capture ‘White/Asian/Other African’ in addition to ‘Black’ identities“. 42% were less satisfied with their lives, 58% were satisfied with their lives.
- 76% of the 72,610 men surveyed were satisfied with their lives. 76% of the 92,982 women surveyed were satisfied with their lives. We don’t really know what the outcome would have been had we found 20,000 more men to survey but we presume it would be more, or less, the same.
- If you want to resort to averages it turns out that many places in the UK rated their happiness at 7-8 out of 10. Also known as medium. Every locality surveyed scored their ‘life satisfaction’ as medium (7-8). Even Londoners… and the Welsh…