The Office for National Statistics has published figures on health, wealth and life satisfaction in Social Trends 38 (2008 edition), which this year takes the theme of societal well-being. Whilst the figures find better wealth and generally more wealth, the evidence is that these have not brought extra happiness. Between 1973 and 2006, people saying they were satisfied with the life they led fluctuated closely around an average of 86 per cent on the scale that ONS uses.
Although family life is still important, family structures are changing. Marriage is still the most common form of partnership, but in the last decade the proportion unmarried and cohabiting has doubled, and births outside marriage have increased with the majority now born to cohabiting couples. The proportion of children living with one parent has more than trebled over the past 35 years to 23 per cent in 2007.
We are recycling more than ten years ago, but the increase in the number of people living alone may be impeding the drive to be more energy efficient.
How we spend our free time is very much important in today’s society. The volumes of consumption for recreation and leisure, and for holidays abroad over the last three decades have increased eightfold.
Palgrave Macmillan publishes Social Trends 38 at £49.50 (ISBN 978?0?230?54564?9) but you can download the report free from the National Statistics website: www.statistics.gov.uk/socialtrends38