英国人对生活满意吗?

英国《金融时报》专栏作家 西蒙•库柏
2019.06.10 12:00

最近很多人(包括我)谈到英国是多么不幸福,多么分裂。英国退欧公投结果经常被形容为受苦人群的痛苦呐喊。

因此在看到下面这张图表时我感到惊愕,它来自独立智库“决议基金会”(Resolution Foundation),显示英国人自我报告的生活满意度达到自上世纪70年代开始调查以来的最高水平。约有93%的英国人现在表示,他们对自己的生活感到“相当”或“非常”满意。

决议基金会的调查显示,尽管在金融危机期间以及英国退欧公投之后满意度停滞,但英国人的满意度自2000年以来出现“非常明显的上行”。学术专家们告诉我,他们相信这些结果。What Works Centre for Wellbeing主任南希•海(Nancy Hey)表示,与英国悲观的全国辩论相反:“对于多数人而言,日子在渐渐变好。”这是怎么回事?

首先要说明一下:并非所有人都感到满意。海表示,约有50万英国人(很多健康状况糟糕、残疾或从事无偿护理工作)在所有指标上都报告幸福感很低。无家可归的人也不幸福,但欧洲晴雨表(Eurobarometer)的调查或英国国家统计局(ONS)的调查没有涵盖这些人群,后者也显示自2011年以来幸福指数上升。

把不幸福的人群与退欧公投联系在一起是有问题的。没错,沃尔弗汉普顿(Wolverhampton)、诺斯利(Knowsley)和奥尔德姆(Oldham)等支持退欧的贫困地区有着英国最低的平均幸福指数。然而决议基金会表示,经常被嘲笑为一个安乐的精英泡沫、支持留欧的伦敦报告的幸福感指数为全国所有地区最低。

与此同时,年龄在70岁左右的退休有房者(多数支持退欧)是英国满意度最高的公民。对于这一人群而言,支持退欧与其说是痛苦的呐喊,不如说是由非常满足的人对英国单干能力投出的信任票。

如果你问为什么多数英国人感到满意,研究幸福问题的人员经常会从就业讲起。对于个人生活满意度而言,最糟糕的事情差不多就是失业。76%的英国工作年龄人口在工作,为有记录以来最高。

应该承认,薪资一直停滞,而且很多人的工作并不称心。话虽如此,不称心的工作并不新鲜,有工作总比没工作好。尽管零工经济饱受非议,但法国国家科学研究中心(Centre national de la recherche scientifique, CNRS)的贝内迪克特•阿普伊(Bénédicte Apouey)和欧洲工商管理学院(INSEAD)的马克•斯塔维莱(Mark Stabile)报告称,零工经济的工作者似乎感受到“对精神健康的强大正面效应”,也许是因为他们能够在更大程度上控制自己的时间。

身体健康状况改善也提升了英国人的幸福感。但其他因素是无形的。罗马第二大学(University of Rome Tor Vergata)的路易莎•科拉多(Luisa Corrado)表示,预测国民幸福度的一个强大指标是同意下列说法的人的比例:“在这个国家,我对选择自己的生活方式的自由度感到满意。”

女性以及性少数群体(即大多数人口)日益获得这类自由。科拉多表示,这可能有助于解释整个欧盟的幸福指数上升。在涵盖10多年数据的欧洲晴雨表数据调查的31个国家中,有27个显示主观幸福感上升。(科拉多表示,在美国,人们自我报告的主观幸福感下降,可能是因为不平等程度加深。)

社会的情商日益提高也有所裨益。我在自己的家庭中看到了这点。1940年,我奶奶的一个儿子因病去世,这在当时是一个常见的悲剧。他去世几周后,他的老师写信给她:“我相信,时间正在逐渐冲淡这一可怕的打击……不消说,我想念尤利乌斯(Julius)以及他在课堂上的‘乐于助人’。”我姥姥在一次意外中失去了一个儿子。我认为她们两人都没有倾诉过各自的悲伤。英国人传统的“僵硬上唇”把不快乐埋在心底。

如今,人们更容易讨论悲伤、抑郁、焦虑或孤独。这可能帮助推动英国男性自杀率降至有记录以来的最低水平。没错,精神健康服务忙得有点顾此失彼,但What Works Centre for Wellbeing的海表示,来自朋友和家人的支持往往更加重要。

人们普遍认为,英国社会信任滑坡。但国家社会研究中心(National Centre for Social Research)引用“英国社会态度”(British Social Attitudes)这项大规模研究的数据称,实际上,表示“‘人们几乎总是或通常可以被信任’的受访者比例在1998年到2014年期间保持相对稳定(大约为45%)”。2017年,这个数字跃升至54%。

英国人针对政界人士和记者的比较特定的不信任度上升,在重要性上可能比不上是否找得到人把自己从医院接回家,以及在街上走路是否安全。重要的是,自上世纪90年代以来,暴力犯罪(很可能包括家庭暴力)有所减少。在英国,明显的腐败也相对较少。

伦敦玛丽女王大学(Queen Mary University of London)的乔治斯•卡韦茨索斯(Georgios Kavetsos)领导的一项研究发现,自退欧公投以来,英国人报告的主观幸福感陷于停滞。不出所料的是,留欧派感到不快,但就连支持退欧的人也看到早期上升的幸福感消失,或许是因为退欧还没有兑现。尽管如此,英国人的满意度仍然是有记录以来的最高水平。和往常一样,怀旧没有什么道理。

译者/梁艳裳

原文:Why life in the UK feels better than ever

By Simon Kuper

There has been lots of talk lately (including by me) about how unhappy and divided the UK is. The vote for Brexit is often described as a cry of pain from suffering people.

So I was stunned to see the chart reprinted below, which comes from the independent Resolution Foundation think-tank and shows that self-reported British life satisfaction is the highest since surveys began in the 1970s. About 93 per cent of Britons now say they are “fairly” or “very” satisfied with their lives.

Resolution reports “a very marked upward drift” since 2000, despite stagnating satisfaction during the financial crisis and since the referendum. Academic experts tell me they believe these findings. Nancy Hey, director of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, says that, contrary to Britain’s doom-ridden national debate: “For most people, things have been getting gently better.” What is going on?

First, a caveat: not everyone is satisfied. About 500,000 Britons — many in poor health, disabled or doing unpaid care work — report low wellbeing across all measures, says Hey. Homeless people suffer too but aren’t captured by Eurobarometer’s surveys or by the UK’s Office for National Statistics’ equally positive studies of wellbeing since 2011.

Associating pockets of unhappiness with the vote for Brexit is tricky. True, the poor Leave-voting areas of Wolverhampton, Knowsley and Oldham have the country’s lowest average wellbeing. However, Remain-supporting London, often derided as a blissful elite bubble, has the lowest self-reported wellbeing of any region, says Resolution.

Meanwhile, retired homeowners aged about 70 — overwhelmingly pro-Brexit — are the UK’s most satisfied citizens. For this particular group, the Leave vote was less a cry of pain than a vote of confidence by very contented people in the country’s ability to go it alone.

When you ask why most Britons are content, happiness researchers often start by pointing to jobs. About the worst thing for personal life satisfaction is unemployment. Seventy-six per cent of working-age Britons are in work, the highest rate on record.

Admittedly, wages have stagnated and many people have unfulfilling jobs. Still, unfulfilling jobs aren’t new, and any job is better than none. Much maligned as the gig economy is, its workers seem to experience “strong positive effects on mental health”, possibly because they gain more control of their time, report Bénédicte Apouey of France’s National Centre for Scientific Research and Mark Stabile of Insead business school.

Improved physical health has boosted British happiness too. But then we get to intangibles. A strong predictor of national happiness is the share of people agreeing with the statement, “In this country, I am satisfied with my freedom to choose what I do with my life,” says Luisa Corrado of the University of Rome Tor Vergata.

Women and sexual minorities — ie most of the population — have increasingly gained such freedom. That may help explain the EU-wide rise in happiness, suggests Corrado. Twenty-seven of 31 countries with Eurobarometer data covering more than a decade report increased subjective wellbeing. (Self-reported wellbeing has fallen in the US, possibly due to rising inequality, says Corrado.)

Society’s growing emotional literacy also helps. I see this in my own family. In 1940, my grandmother lost a son to disease — an everyday tragedy at the time. Weeks after his death, his teacher wrote to her: “I trust that time is gradually dulling the terrible blow . . . Needless to say, I miss Julius and his ‘willing hands’ about the classroom.” My other grandmother lost a son in an accident. I don’t think either talked about her grief. The stiff upper lip froze unhappiness in place.

Nowadays it’s easier for people to talk about grief, depression, anxiety or loneliness. That may have helped push the UK’s male suicide rate to the lowest level on record. True, mental-health services are overstretched, but Hey says that support from friends and family often matters more.

There’s a widespread presumption that British social trust has declined. But, in fact, the proportion of those saying that “people can almost always or usually be trusted has remained relatively stable (at about 45 per cent) between 1998 and 2014”, reports the National Centre for Social Research, drawing on the large-scale British Social Attitudes studies. In 2017, the figure jumped to 54 per cent.

The more specific rising British distrust of politicians and journalists may count for less than whether people have someone to collect them from hospital, and safe streets to walk down. Crucially, violent crime (probably including domestic abuse) has declined since the 1990s. Perceived corruption remains relatively low in the UK.

Since the referendum, self-reported British subjective wellbeing has stagnated, finds a study led by Georgios Kavetsos of Queen Mary University of London. Pro-Europeans are predictably upset, but even anti-Europeans saw an early rise in wellbeing melt away, perhaps because Brexit hasn’t been delivered. Even so, British contentment remains about the highest ever measured. As usual, nostalgia is misplaced.

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