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More Underemployed Britons Suffering Than Americans

More Underemployed Britons Suffering Than Americans

by Andrew Rzepa and Glenn Phelps

LONDON -- Suffering among underemployed Britons showed signs of rising before the recent riots in the United Kingdom, according to new Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index data. The percentage of underemployed Britons who rated their lives poorly enough to be considered "suffering" increased from 6% to 8% between 2010 and 2011, making them twice as likely to be suffering as Britons in general (4%) and as underemployed Americans (4%).

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The Life Evaluation Index, a component of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, asks Britons to evaluate their current lives as well as their expectations of where they will be in five years using the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale from 0 to 10, with "0" indicating the worst possible life and "10" the best possible life. Britons who say they presently stand on steps 0 to 4 of the ladder and expect to stand on steps 0 to 4 five years from now are classified as "suffering." The slight uptick in suffering among underemployed Britons may reflect their increasing pessimism as unemployment started to rise again this year and the government instituted new austerity measures.

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Suffering Britons also express hardship in more specific ways. Those who are suffering tend to report higher levels of anger, worry, and sadness than Britons whose are "struggling" or "thriving." Gallup finds this same tendency among Americans, as well as other populations it has studied.

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Underemployed Britons, whom Gallup defines as adults who are unemployed or who work part time but desire full-time work, are also more likely than employed Britons to experience many of these same negative emotions.

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The suffering among underemployed Britons and the negative emotions that tend to accompany this state of well-being suggest there may be some validity to British Prime Minister David Cameron's argument that sections of British society are "broken" and "sick." As the government attempts to address the causes of the recent riots, the data suggest that in addition to the reported societal elements that were a precursor to the riots, legislators should also give weight to economic drivers and job creation.

Julie Ray contributed to this report.

View all Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index questions and methodology.

About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index tracks U.S. and U.K. well-being and provides best-in-class solutions for a healthier world. To learn more, please visit

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey March 1-June 30, 2011, with a random sample of 3,933 adults, aged 18 and older, living in in the United Kingdom, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2.1 percentage points. The sample included 317 underemployed adults.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones. Each daily sample includes a minimum quota of 5 cell phone respondents and 29 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within the regions. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, education, region, adults in the household, and cell phone status. Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recently published population data from teh Census Bureau for Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Results for earlier survey data are based on telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 British adults, aged 18 and older, conducted yearly in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is between ±3.3 percentage points and ±3.8 percentage points. The 2010 survey included interviews with 116 underemployed adults.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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