Our Eudaimonia research report: How do humans flourish?

Why we looked into the nation's wellbeing – and what we learnt
11 November 2016

What is the current state of the UK’s wellbeing? And what are the factors that influence it?

These were just two of the questions that led us to conduct a nationwide survey on wellbeing. It took us into the workplace and explored the UK’s work-life balance. How close relationships may impact on our happiness. What happens when money concerns start to grind? And the lasting effects our education experience can have on our lives.

Why carry out the survey?

As a leading health, wellbeing and education charity, we work daily to combat barriers to good health, happiness and a sense of fulfillment – so it’s important for us to gain clearer understanding of what those barriers are. We will also use the findings to power real change as part of our wider Eudaimonia campaign.

How was the research conducted?

The research questioned a nationally representative sample of 1,000 UK adults in September 2016 on 14 statements relating to wellbeing and how various lifestyle factors, such as activity, mental stimulation, financial confidence, relationships, and education affect these.

Findings: An overview

  • The average Brit scored 6.13/10 on an index for their overall wellbeing.
  • The three wellbeing statements that the general population were least likely to agree with were:
    • I’ve had energy to spare. (5.0/10)
    • I’ve been feeling relaxed. (5.65/10)
    • I’ve been feeling good about myself. (5.73/10)
  • Financial stability is the factor that most affects the wellbeing of UK citizens. There is a 52% divide in wellbeing scores between the most and least financially confident people in society.  
  • The activities people reported as most likely to boost wellbeing were:
    • being on holiday (66%)
    • being with family (56%)
    • when socialising with friends. (49%).
  • Lacking good relationships led to a 50% swing in scores.
  • Being surrounded by negative relationships reduces wellbeing by 33%.
  • Lacking mental stimulation – such as learning a new skill – brought about a 48% divide.
  • Leading an active lifestyle brings a 13% increase in average wellbeing scores.
    • An inactive lifestyle reduces the average wellbeing score by 19% (meaning there’s a 32% gap in average wellbeing scores between the most and least active).
  • There was a 30% divide in wellbeing between those with positive and negative education experiences.
It’s now vital that we recognise the importance of working towards achieving a healthy balance of physical activity, mental stimulation, and positive relationships
Rosi Prescott, Central YMCA Chief executive

What next?

These findings demonstrate how wellbeing can be seriously undermined if any one of these factors is adversely affected. It highlights, for example, how concentrating on the improvement of one means of wellbeing (such as physical fitness) will be undermined if we don’t place a similar emphasis on our relationships or mental stimulation.

For us at Central YMCA, it poses the interesting thought: Should gyms be used to focus on more than just physical fitness? Should we move from a spin class to a TED lecture, in an environment designed to help us meet new people and build positive relationships?

Perhaps the most surprising result from the research is the potential lifelong impact that a poor experience of the education system can have on wellbeing. This highlights the importance of ensuring everyone receives an education that provides a good foundation for a happy and fulfilling life – not just one designed to make us fit for the workplace.

"It’s now vital that we recognise the importance of working towards achieving a healthy balance of physical activity, mental stimulation, and positive relationships – all which have a significant impact on our feelings of wellbeing," says Rosi Prescott, Central YMCA Chief executive. "A reduction in any of these can seriously undermine our ability to flourish."

Download the full report 'Eudaimonia: How do humans flourish' by clicking on the button below [pdf].

Read more about Eudaimonia, our wider movement to learn about – and overcome – the barriers to the UK’s wellbeing.