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Londoners know a thing or two about misery, survey shows

July 24, 2012 |  1:26 pm

London's St. Pancras Station
LONDON -- As thousands of Olympic athletes, spectators and journalists arrive hoping to be greeted with a smile from their hosts, a new government survey shows what many here already know: Londoners are some of the most miserable, stressed-out people in Britain.

A higher proportion of this city’s residents gave low ratings to their level of satisfaction with life than in any other part of the country, according to an official attempt to measure Britons’ well-being. And asked whether they had been anxious the day before, Londoners also took home the gold, outscoring residents in the rest of Britain.

Those are the results released Tuesday of a yearlong survey conducted by the British government in its effort to come up with a “happiness index.” Critics have derided the exercise as a waste of time, because some of the results seem obvious; for example, people with steady jobs and partners or spouses reported higher levels of contentment. But officials say such data can help them formulate policies that promote the general welfare.

It appears they need to start with London first, although residents of parts of central England, around the city of Birmingham, also appear to be in need of cheering up.

The two regions were neck and neck in having the greatest proportion of people who essentially said, “Not really,” when asked whether “the things you do in your life are worthwhile.” Their residents were also closely matched in the proportion who reported feeling glum the day before.

Whether the Olympics will lift the city’s spirits or just give Londoners more to complain about remains to be seen.


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Photo: A crowd waits behind barriers in St. Pancras Station to ride escalators up to the Southeastern Railway/Javelin platform after trains in both directions were delayed in London on Tuesday. Credit: Andrew Gombert / European Pressphoto Agency