Saturday 3 March 2012

Despite continued economic pressure, older generations try to stay upbeat Saga captures over 50s well-being and reveals how happiness improves, and people become less lonely with age


The Quality of Life (QOLI) for over 50s in the UK is significantly worse in Q1 2012 than it was this time a year ago.  A third (32%) reported poorer living standards than at the start of 2011, according to the first Saga Quarterly Report* of 2012.

Unemployment and abnormally high levels of inflation are continuing to eat away at the spending power of older generations. Job losses have hit women particularly hard compared to a year ago, partly as a result of the public sector cutbacks. 

The Saga Quarterly Report, combining quantitative economic data with qualitative well-being measures, showed a continuous corrosion in quality of life throughout 2011, with older people becoming steadily less happy and less financially secure throughout the year. But there are some tentative signs of stability or possibly even some ‘green shoots’ of recovery this quarter.

It seems that older people may be adopting a ‘grin and bear it’ attitude in the face of financial hardship. Rather than moaning and complaining, they try to stay positive and make the best of their situation and find ways of adjusting. 

Capturing well-being:

This Quarter, Saga surveyed over 10,000 people over 50 on the different elements of their well-being. An obvious trend was detected, revealing the older the person, the more content and positive they are. Socioeconomic group also altered their well-being, with a large disparity between groups - better off pensioners (AB social groups) felt consistently happier than those in lower (DE) group.

· Happiness
The over 50s appear to be content and their happiness increases with age. Measured on a percentage scale, the average happiness was marked between 60 and 70 percent. Those in their early 50s are marginally less happy than those in their late 60s and early 70s, marking happiness at 66% and 71% respectively.

· Satisfaction
Satisfaction in life also appears to improve with age. Those over 65 felt the most satisfied, rating themselves at 68%while those in their 50s feel least satisfied at64%.

· Positivity
When asked how positive they feel about themselves as a person, positivity appears to increase with age, with people over 70citing their positivity towards themselves at 73% positive, compared to those in their early 50s at 65%. There was also a large disparity between those in socio economic group AB rating their positivity as 73% compared to those in DE at 62% positive.

· Worries
In general, the over 50s say they are not too worried, though, interestingly, people in their 50s feel more worried than those is older age groups, ranking their woes at 45% compared to those in their 70s citing worries at a level of only35%.

· Loneliness
The over 50s appear to feel fulfilled with their relationships and in general, do not consider themselves particularly lonely. Perhaps contrary to popular belief, it is the younger generations who feel lonelier than older groups. People in their early 50s ranked themselves as 33% lonely, lonelier than those in their early and late 70s who ranked their loneliness at 23% and 25% respectively. Loneliness varied significantly across socioeconomic groups, with those in AB not feeling lonely (25%) compared to those in DE who say they are 68%lonely.

· Feeling worthwhile
When asked how worthwhile the over 50s felt things in their daily life are, the trend of younger generations feeling less positive than older people continued. Those in their early 50s say things they do in daily life feel 66% worthwhile, compared to those in their late 60s and early 70s who rate the their daily tasks at feeling over 70% worthwhile.
Dr Ros Altmann, Director General, Saga said: “Our findings show that these are generations that all of society can learn from, despite their economic difficulties they feel more positive with age.

“We are still a long way from reporting a “positive” Quality of Life for the over 50s. Although there seems to have been a minor improvement over the last quarter only it’s too early to say whether this marks the start of a new trend towards true quality of life.

“Our Quarterly Report Series serves as a reminder to policy makers that older generations should feature more prominently on the Government’s agenda. With an ageing population, these important age groups should not be overlooked.”  Unemployment and income pressures for this significant sector of the population are in danger of undermining economic welfare for society as a whole.

The Bank of England should also take the impact of inflation more seriously, as Saga’s surveys clearly show the damage caused to economic activity by rising prices.  During 2011, rising living costs was consistently the biggest concern of the over 50s – and remains so for our first Quarterly Report of 2012 – and this has caused older generations to cut their spending significantly.

The only positive element, however, is that they are still managing to help out their children and grandchildren, who are also struggling.




*The Saga Quarterly Report

The Saga Quarterly Report is the first research series which combines hard economic data from official sources (such as Office for National Statistics and Family Expenditure Survey) with survey evidence on well-being, from Saga’s own exclusive nationwide Populus Survey of more than 11,000 people aged over 50.

This work echoes 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.

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.

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?”

The Saga Quality of Life Index is the (equally weighted) average of the Standard of Living, Happiness and Health sub-indices.

The Quarterly 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 75.  These indices have been compiled for Saga by the 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.

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