Feelings of depression and anxiety are on the rise, according to ONS statistics released last month. Young women, in particular, appear to be suffering from more mental health problems and self-harm. The NHS is now considering health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and smoking-related bronchitis as new and untreatable epidemics. And in a recent report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) which measured the wellbeing of citizens across 160 countries, Britain ranked in the bottom 25 out of 162 countries when it comes to boosting the wellbeing of its citizens.
Interestingly, it’s this very report that holds the clue as to what’s going on.
The classic approach to measuring a country’s success is its GDP – and that’s why the UK generally tends to do well. According to International Monetary Fund figures, the UK fluctuates between having the fifth or sixth largest GDP in the world.
But the BCG report is different. Claiming that “Leaders around the world increasingly recognize that GDP alone cannot give a full picture of a country's performance”, it instead uses other measures – such as how many people are employed, how economically stable they are, what their income is, what their environment is like – to build up a more holistic picture.
This makes sense, because a successful state is not just one that is wealthy, but also a place where people feel healthy, happy and fulfilled.
Of course, how good we feel is the result of a complex web of influences. Are we always ground down from working in cramped offices? Do high rents mean we don’t have much disposable income? Does the need to find work in different parts of the country separate us from family and friends? Is our addiction to social media making us depressed?