Press release


Monday 18 June 2012

Queen’s Diamond Jubilee sends spirits soaring for over 50s


The mood and wellbeing of Britain’s over 50s soared after the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations, lifting them out of one of their worst depressions for years, according to Saga’s Quality of Life Index.

A snap survey after the Jubilee celebrations revealed a sharp rise in the proportion of over 50s who said they were happier than a year ago – 22% after the Jubilee, compared to just 12% beforehand.

In the lead up to the jubilee, however, Saga’s latest Quality of Life Index had reached a record low (from -8.8 in Q2 last year to -16.2 in Q2 this year*), while its new measure of over 50s wellbeing – the SMILE index – was in negative territory. 

The SMILE Index (Saga Measure Indicating Life Enjoyment) used the same questions as the Government employs to track national wellbeing, asking about worry, loneliness, happiness, life satisfaction, feelings of self-worth and self-esteem.

The new SMILE measure is part of Saga’s Quality of Life Index (QOLI) which reaffirms Saga’s commitment to achieving better insights into the wellbeing of the nation’s over 50s to ensure their needs are not ignored by policymakers.

Despite tentative signs that Quality of Life for the over 50s was stabilising in the first quarter of this year, the Index for the second quarter fell from 68.2 to 67.5 - a decline of 1%.  This largely reflects loneliness and worry among women and lower socio-economic groups, and a fall in average reported life satisfaction across all age bands and socio-economic groups.

Dr. Ros Altmann, Director-General of Saga, commented today: “Britain’s older generations have been finding it tougher than ever, but the Diamond Jubilee saw everyone come together in a national celebration and has notably increased the happiness levels of the over 50s.

“A blast of sunshine, pride in our country and time spent outdoors with family and friends may be just the ticket for millions of older people. Our hope is that the rest of the summer and the Olympics will help raise spirits further in the UK.”

Dr Altmann warned however that the lift in the nation’s mood was unlikely to be permanent. “Although older people were cheered by the jubilee, the fundamental problems remain,” she said. “Inflation has hit them hard and their confidence continues to wane. 

“The normally stoical older generations are finding it increasingly hard to remain upbeat, as our SMILE index shows. At the heart of these findings is a policy environment that is eroding the spending power and the livelihoods of Britain’s older people.

“Policy makers simply must feature older generations more prominently on their agenda.”

Q1 hopes for stabilisation of Quality of Life not fulfilled:  The Report for the second quarter of 2012, just released, records new double-digit lows across all three Saga indicators - Standard of Living, Happiness and Health. The analysis reveals that both the qualitative (survey evidence) and quantitative (official economic statistics) measures of quality of life fell during the latest quarter, which certainly fits in with official confirmation of a double dip recession.

Not a happy picture this quarter! Sadly, our new SMILE index shows a marked decline across all over 50s age ranges between Q1 and Q2 2012. The Index fell from 68.2 to 67.5 - a decline of 1%.  The decline in the Index largely reflects increased feelings of loneliness and worry among women and lower socio-economic groups and a fall in average reported life satisfaction across all age bands and socio-economic groups. While women on average say their lives are more worthwhile, higher scores for worry and loneliness mean that their SMILE Index is lower.


Concerns – increased worries about funding care and inflation
Personal health and the quality of healthcare were reported as a greater concern than a year ago for one third of survey respondents, while the share of over 50s who reported that funding caring needs is a greater concern than 12 months ago also rose this quarter.
Increasing numbers of over 50s helping children or grandchildren
True to their previous practices of selflessness and generosity, an increasing proportion of older generations continue to help their children and grandchildren financially. This is despite falls in their spending power and their own money-related worries - 75% reported greater concern over the cost of living compared to a year ago, much greater than those more worried about crime (25%) and health (30%).
Inflation still higher for over 50s and inflation expectations rising
Inflationary pressures remain elevated among the over 50s and inflation expectations for the over 50s have increased with one third of the over 50s expecting the cost of living to rise more than 6% in the next twelve months.  Since the financial crisis started (when Northern Rock failed) prices for pensioners have risen by over 20%, compared with about 16% for the UK as a whole.  The over 50s have revised up their inflation expectations this quarter, suggesting that stubbornly high price growth is embedding itself in consumer expectations.  With the Bank of England now suggesting that inflation will remain above the 2% target for some time, the corrosive effects of inflation seem set to continue.

Unemployment stays high
Unemployment among the over 50s has risen by 9.4% compared with a year ago, while employment among the over 65s has more-or-less flat-lined following a decade of growth.




About the Saga Quarterly Report

The Saga Quarterly Report is the first research series which combines hard economic data with survey evidence on well-being, echoing the Government's initiative to measure national well-being. The Report Series is undertaken by respected independent economists at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) and is updated every three months.

The Saga Quarterly Report combines hard factual statistical data from official sources (such as Office for National Statistics and Family Expenditure Survey) with Saga’s own exclusive nationwide Populus Survey of more than 10,000 people aged over 50.

In identifying some of the key drivers that impact the daily lives of this age group and by tracking the quality of their lives, Saga hopes the Quarterly Report and its Quality of Life and Price Indices will improve the understanding of the lives of the over 50s, challenge the way society perceives age and ensure that the concerns and interests of the over 50s are on the agendas of politicians, decision-makers and the media.

Each report includes The Saga Quality of Life Index which combines measures of happiness, standards of living and health and has been modelled by Cebr from Saga Populus Survey data to form an Index which can be tracked over time.

*Saga Quality of Life Index

The Saga Quality of Life Index is comprised of three equally weighted sub-indices:

1. The Standard of Living Index – which is based on answers to the survey question: “Over the past year, how has your standard of living changed?”

2. The Happiness Index - which is based on answers to the survey question: “All things considered, since last year would you say you are much more/more/about as/less/ much less happy?”

3. The Health Index - which is based on answers to the survey question: “Compared to this time last year, how is your health?”

Answers to the questions (which are multiple choice) are scored according to the following conventions:

A weighted average of the survey responses, based on these scores, yields each of the sub indices. A score of 100 would imply that every survey respondent has indicated much improved outcome for the sub index. A score of -100 would imply all respondents indicating a much worse outcome.

The Saga Quality of Life Index is the (equally weighted) average of the Standard of Living, Happiness and Health sub-indices. It too is limited to the range -100 to 100. A score of 100 would imply that every survey respondent has indicated much improved standard of living, happiness and health compared with 12 months ago. A score of -100 would indicate much worse outcomes, for each of these indicators, for each survey respondent.

New Index SMILE - Saga Measure Indicating Life Enjoyment
This index aims to dovetail with the Government’s own initiative that will track the overall wellbeing of the nation.  We have asked the same questions as those used by the Office for National Statistics and produced a measure which can track the wellbeing of these important age groups over time.

As with last quarter, we asked survey respondents a series of questions which now feature in the ONS Integrated Household Survey as part of the Government’s agenda to start measuring national ‘wellbeing’. The aim of the new Saga survey questions is to complement and assist the Government’s wellbeing agenda by compiling its own wellbeing index for the over 50s, tying in with the Office for National Statistics “Measuring National Wellbeing Programme” See ONS paper “Measuring National Well-being – Discussion paper on domains and measures”, October 2011. The survey findings reveal differences in wellbeing across age groups, socio-economic groups and genders.
This quarter, we have created a composite index of wellbeing – the SMILE (Saga Measure Indicating Life Enjoyment) Index – which is based on six survey questions which capture perceptions of life satisfaction, self-worth, worry, loneliness, happiness and self-esteem.

Saga Price Indices
The Report also includes the Saga Price Indices, which are bespoke measures of price inflation for the over 50s, showing how inflation is affecting the cohorts age 50-64, 65-74 and the over 75s.  These indices have been compiled for Saga by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), using statistical data from the Family Expenditure Survey to re-weight the official basket of the consumer prices index to represent the spending patterns of each age group.