Getting a good night’s sleep has a greater impact on our happiness than getting a significant pay rise.
That’s according to new research, which suggests the most content Brits feel well-rested “most of the time”.
The Living Well Index, created by leading researchers at Oxford Economics and the National Centre for Social research, also found that sexual satisfaction, health of relatives and feeling connected to the local community all impact our overall wellbeing.
However, sleep was found to have the largest impact by far, with getting enough shut-eye having a greater impact on happiness than a 50% raise.
The study, created in partnership with Sainsbury’s, aimed to define, measure and track what it really means to live well in Britain today.
Researchers asked a panel of more than 8,000 people questions relating to 18 topics, grouped into six major themes: community connections, finances, relationships, health, lifestyle and environment.
Participants were then given a “Living Well” score out of a possible 100, equating to the highest possible level of happiness and wellbeing.
The researchers concluded that the average Brit currently has a Living Well score of 62.2 out of a maximum of 100. Those “living best” are defined as the 20% of the population with the highest scores – falling between 72 and 92.
By comparing the lifestyles and behaviours of those living best in Britain with the typical Briton, the index reveals the critical factors behind living well.
Income has surprisingly little impact on how we feel. For the typical Brit, a 50% rise in disposable income contributes to just a 0.5 point increase in their Living Well score.
In contrast, a good night’s sleep has the strongest association with how well we feel we are living. For the typical Brit, improving their sleep to the level of those who are living best would be equivalent to them having more than four times as much disposable income.
These were the five factors found to separate a typical person from those living best:
1. A Good Night’s Sleep: With a typical Briton only feeling rested after sleep ‘some of the time’, the research found that sleep quality can explain 3.8 points of difference between their Living Well score and those who are living best in the top 20% of the index. The majority of those with the highest Living Well scores reported feeling well rested most of the time (60%), while over half of those in the bottom 20% of the index said that they rarely, or never, felt well rested.
2. Sex Life Satisfaction: Across the population as a whole, just over a third (35%) said they were fairly or very satisfied with their sex lives. Once again, these individuals were disproportionately likely to be found at the top of the Living Well Index – with almost two thirds (63%) of those at the top saying that they were satisfied with their sex life, twice the national average.
3. Job Security: Among working people, 43% of those with the highest index scores experience a very high degree of job security, almost twice the national average. Overall, job security explained a 1.8 point gap between the typical working Brit and those living best.
4. Health of Close Relatives: For the typical person, worries about the health of close relations emerges as a significant barrier to living very well. The analysis found that worries over the health of close relations contributes a difference of 1.75 points between the typical Briton and those living best.
5. Community Connectedness: Stronger connections with the people we share a community with is an important factor for those who experience the highest quality of life in Britain. The analysis suggests that by enhancing the quality and strength of these local relationships, people could live happier, more satisfied lives. The typical person speaks to their neighbours once or twice a month. But speaking to neighbours once or twice a week could add 1.6 points to individual index scores.
Ian Mulheirn, director of consulting at Oxford Economics, said: “Wellbeing is rising up the agenda at a time of rapid change in how we live our lives and we’ve created a critical new tool that can help us to unpick what’s driving our sense of living well, drawing on a unique, rolling survey of unprecedented breadth and granularity.
“The analysis within the Sainsbury’s Living Well Index reveals that, in a world that’s never been more connected, the richness of our relationships and support networks remains among the biggest determinants of how well we live – and represents an area of our lives in which we can act.”
To better understand the results and seek guidance on what action can be taken on the key factors holding Britons back from living well, Sainsbury’s has formed the Living Well Advisory Group.
The same panel will be questioned every six months, enabling the researchers to track the effects of how we live on how we feel.
A panel of experts will also help the business understand how it can use its resources to improve the way in which colleagues, customers and the communities Sainsbury’s serves live.
To take part in a simplified version of the Sainsbury’s Living Well Index, get a personal Living Well score and to receive simple suggestions for actions to improve it, you can take a test yourself on the Sainsbury’s website.