A new study has concluded that the happiest ever year for Brits was 1957 – backing up the claims by the then Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.
The Conservative PM said at the time that Britons “had never had it so good”, and experts from the University of Warwick seem to agree.
Researchers analysed billions of words in 8 million books and articles written from 1776 to 2009 to track contentment.
They based their findings on the use of positive words like ‘enjoyment’, ‘peaceful’ and ‘happiness’ compared to more negative words like ‘unhappy’ and ‘stress’.
The study found that there was a rise in joy and happiness after 1945 – the year World War Two ended – which peaked in 1957.
From that point on, researchers found a gradual fall throughout the strike of the 1970s, particularly the Winter of Discontent in 1978.
And while there was a recovery as incomes increased, the levels never quite matched the 1957 peak, despite it being a time of no central heating, outdoor toilets and a lack of foreign holidays.
The study, published by the university along with the Social Market Foundation, concluded that after two world wars, Brits had learned to “count their blessings” and be happy with what they had.
Dr Daniel Sgroi, co-author of the report and associate professor at the University of Warwick, said: “In 1957, memories of the Second World War and the period of austerity that followed were still fresh in the mind of the nation, perhaps helping people to appreciate what they had.
“It may be that people in the 1950s had a greater sense of realism about happiness.”
With life expectancy for men and women at 66 and 71 respectively, Britain’s 1957 PM, Harold Macmillan, accurately summed up the nation’s mood when he said in a speech: “Let us be frank about it – most of our people have never had it so good.”
The study states that people are more likely to be happy when their expectations are lower, as are those within large social networks of other contented people.
Dr Sgroi added of the findings: “While there is much more individualism now, in the 1950s people were more likely to feel as if they had a common goal, so could for example leave their door open when they went out because they trusted their neighbours.
“Now we are more aware of what is happening in the world than people were then, but this could be making us unhappier.
“And people now have to face pressures put upon them, such as work stress, which might have increased.”
Top pic: Rex