The UK Was Just Voted Second Most Miserable Place In The World. Here's Why

Brits are miserable – but it's not because of the politics, or because of the weather, a new report says.
Brits are miserable – but it's not because of the politics, or because of the weather, a new report says. Mike Kemp via Getty Images

The UK was voted the second most miserable place in the world in a new eye-opening survey.

Only Uzbekistan ranked lower than the UK in a global mental wellbeing index, according to the US non-profit Sapien Labs’ Mental State of the Year report released last week.

The non-profit looked at results from 500,000 respondents, from 71 countries, for a survey on how people’s “inner state impacts their ability to function within their life context”.

The think tank then compared countries by giving them a score.

Scores under 0 represent distressed or struggling, scores between 0 and 50 mean enduring, 50-100 means managing, and 100 to 200 mean succeeding or thriving.

Britain scored a pitiful 49 overall, while the average among all countries was 65.

It was also a close tie between the UK and South Africa over who had the largest proportion of respondents who are distressed or struggling (35%).

So, why are Brits so miserable?

Despite being a developed country with one of the world’s largest economies, Brits are still more miserable than those living through intense humanitarian disasters (like those in Yemen).

In fact, Yemen secured a higher score than the UK, Ireland and Australia, with 59 for mental wellbeing.

Of course, it’s easy to blame the UK’s misery on the many crises which have hit headlines recently.

And, in a way, the results are not surprising. After all, the Office for National Statistics found that overall personal wellbeing across the country declined last year.

We have faced two economic recessions since the pandemic broke out, while the ongoing cost of living crisis combined with rising rent and the lack of trust in political leaders likely has many people feeling pretty low right now.

But, the researchers also noted that wealthy Western countries in general had a poor rating.

They theorised: “Greater wealth and economic development do not necessarily lead to greater mental wellbeing.”

The report also pointed to other data from the Global Mind Project which identified key factors which could explain it all.

This includes “getting a smartphone at a young age, frequently eating ultra-processed food and a fraying of friendships and family relationships, that are typically more prevalent in Internet-enabled populations of wealthier countries.”

Is this a particularly British problem?

No. The report found the global number of people who said they were distressed or struggling rose when Covid began and has shown little change since then.

“Overall, the insights in this report paint a worrying picture of our post-pandemic prospects and we urgently need to better understand the drivers of our collective mental wellbeing such that we can align our ambitions and goals with the genuine prosperity of human beings,” the think tank said.

And, it’s worth noting that the UK does not always come bottom – the World Happiness Report 2023 suggested the UK is actually the 19th happiest country, putting it between Czech Republic and Lithuania.

And, as Sapien Labs Founder Dr Tara Thiagarajan told, there may have been a reporting bias as only those with internet access in each country could respond.

Still, this in-depth study of global wellbeing does urge political leaders to look at the larger picture.

It concludes: “This cautions strongly against purely focusing on economic metrics as measures of human progress and wellbeing.

“Rather attention must be paid to how wealth is created and used to drive a path of holistic prosperity that is aligned with human wellbeing.”