It’s not easy to move the happiness needle upwards.  Thirty years of societal and economic changes have raised people’s expectations, but fewer of us express strong satisfaction with our situations.  Even Baby Boomers, considered by many to be a fortunate generation, don’t claim to be any happierthan other groups.

At first glance, agreement to the TGI statement “I am perfectly happy with my standard of living” seems consistent. In 1988, 57% of GB adults agreed; today it’s still 57%.  Midway between, in 2003, it was 58%.  Disagreement too has only shifted slightly, from 22% in 1988 to 19% today.     

But while the majority continue to express a certain satisfaction with their lot, the degree of happiness has dropped.  Only half as many – 26% as against 13% – say that they definitely agree.  It seems that expectations have increased, and our relative sense of how well they are being met has declined.

The demographic differences are telling.  At each of these time points, the over-65s have been the happiest.  This was only marginally the case in 1988, but it is strongly so today – 70% proclaimthemselves to be happy, against only just over 50% of younger age groups.  Many perhaps see retirement as a time forreflection and enjoyment.

Generational differences are sometimes considered one of the fault lines in Britain today, with the ‘Baby Boomers’ considered by some to be most fortunate generation of all time.  But they themselves don’t seem to believe it.  The cohort born between the mid-1950s and the late 1960s were aged roughly 20-34 in 1988, 35-49 in 2003 and 50-64 today.  Here we see that their level of happiness has tracked low.  They were the least happy group in 1988, and remained so in 2003.  Even now their sense of satisfaction is no higher than the younger groups.   

Many younger adults feel that the Baby Boomers are the generation that“had it all”, and that their own futures may be less blessed.  It seems however that Boomers themselves don’t feel the same way.  Marketers are operating therefore in a context in which this affluent target seems to be lacking in happiness.  That should be considered a big opportunity for those with products that offer positive experiences that would appeal to Boomers. Is this a chance to move the needle?

Research is vital for businesses taking decisions that have long-term implications.  Longitudinal analysis of data such as TGI, including the historical data held within the Archive for Market and SocialResearch (AMSR), can allow decision-makers to track and assess the impact of their actions.