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Over worked, over stressed and over 40

02 Sep 2010

It used to be said that life begins at 40, but happiness now doesn't begin until 54, according to a new report. 

Research from first direct reveals just under one million 45-54-year-olds are unhappy with their lives1 - and their age group is the most frustrated in the country. 

The concerns about wealth and future prospects of the 8.5 million Baby Gloomers - Britons born between the mid-50s and mid-60s - seriously impact on their outlook. Overall, fewer than 40 per cent feel completely happy with life, compared to a national average of 48 per cent. 

Older generations in particular are far more content. At 54, more Britons describe themselves as "happy" and "content" rather than "stressed" and "self conscious" for the first time. And this trend continues, with 71 per cent of over 65s content with their lot. 

Money worries are the key concern of one in five (19 per cent) of Baby Gloomers - the most financially discontent of any generation2. Along with the prospect of later retirement, gloom factors this generation are victims of include having to work longer to save for retirement, missing out on the chance to easily remortgage, the closing of final pension schemes plus soaring costs of parental care and children's education. 

With a 45-year-old male Baby Gloomer having an average life expectancy of 853, retirement alone could cost as much as £320,000.4 Small wonder 15 per cent are unhappy with their future prospects5 - more than any other generation. 

Yet Baby Gloomers should take heart. The research suggests that money has a less important role to play in happiness than many other factors. And happy people seem to gain colour in their lives from a range of lifestyle choices and changes. 

Effective tactics favoured by other generations in the pursuit of happiness include: 

Golden Baby Boomers - Travel:

Nearly one in 10 55-64-year-olds (eight per cent) plan to travel for three or more months. Globe-trotting  seems to be particularly important for raising the spirits - Brits who have travelled for three months or more are 20 per cent more likely to be happy than those who have not. 

Generation X - Prioritise relationships:

26 per cent of 35-44-year-olds have made new friends or severed unhappy relationships to improve their happiness. Healthy, supportive relationships emerge as central to our satisfaction with life, and people who have forged new friendships are 4% more likely to say they are happy now than those who have not. 

Generation Y - Change direction:

More than two fifths of 25-34-year-olds (41%) are planning a career change -more than any other generation. Among Britons who have changed career path, 7% more say they are now happy. 

Millennials - Go Eco-friendly:

28 per cent of 16-24-year-olds want to lead 'The Good Life,' pursuing a more sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyle - more than any other generation. People who have already done this are 13% more likely to say they are happy than those who have not - the second biggest factor after travelling. 

Encouragingly, many Baby Gloomers are planning to make changes to their lives, with more than one in five wanting to take up a new hobby, nearly a fifth looking to change career, and almost one in 10 considering going back to study. 

first direct Head of Marketing Paul Say said: "The first generation of Baby Boomers is known as the 'Golden Generation'; those who came a decade later appear less fortunate, facing work and financial pressures that seem to be weighing down on them particularly. Three quarters are resigned to working far longer to fund their retirement, compared to just six in 10 of the general population.
"But looking to other generations, people are gaining satisfaction in their lives from much more than just money. Even in their late 50s and early 60s, Brits are undertaking a raft of changes to make their lives richer, more colourful and - ultimately - happier." 


For more information or to request a copy of the first direct 'Colourful Lives' Report Chapter Two, please contact: Melanie Corbett on 07727 012054 / or Emily Phillips on 07853 186821 / 

Related video:

Notes to Editors: 

Findings reported here are taken from the second of five chapters of the first direct Colourful Lives Report by the Future Foundation commissioned by first direct to mark its 21st birthday. 

Each chapter will aim to capture the essence of quirky individualism in the UK. This second chapter - A Life of Change - looks at Britons' satisfaction with their lives and how embracing extra colour makes us happier. It focuses on the experiences of the Baby Gloomers - the 45-54-year-olds who are the unhappiest generation in the UK in key areas - and life changes improving our outlook. 

A note on methodology - the research was conducted online among a nationally representative sample of 1,000 Britons aged 16+ in August 2010. 

The secrets of happiness

High levels of satisfaction with the following five factors are key to happiness according to the first direct research: 

1.         Your mental health/wellbeing

2.         Your future prospects

3.         Your love life

4.         Your family relationships

5.         The way you spend your leisure time 

If you've made four or more key life changes you're most likely to be among the happiest people. 

Additional Sources 

  1. There are 8,533,241 45-54-year-olds in the country. Of these, 11.5% are unhappy - some 983,632 Baby Gloomers
  2. Scoring 1 or 2 out of 10 for happiness with personal finances, with 1 being completely unhappy
  3. Life expectancy of a 45 year old man in 2010 is a further 40.4 years (ONS, 2008):
  4. Retirement costs an average of £308 a week per household (CEBR, 2008) based on current retirement age of 65-years-old
  5. Scoring 1 or 2 out of 10 for happiness in this area - with 1 indicating completely unhappy 
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