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One person households are unhappiest in UK

Posted on 13 January 2017

Empty nesters are the happiest households

  • People living alone have less than half the ‘spare cash’ of couples
  • One person households spend 61% of their income on bills compared to 49% for couples
  • Singles are the unhappiest, empty nesters are the happiest households

People who live alone have less than half the spare cash of people living with a partner, making them the least happy households, according to the latest research from SunLife.

SunLife’s Cash Happy is an annual report which studies the day to day finances of 3,000 UK households, mapping income - and how it is used - against happiness.

In its first edition last year, Cash Happy 2015 found that there is a strong link between happiness and how much we earn, but more importantly, there is a stronger link between happiness and how much ‘spare cash’ we have, i.e. the money we have to spend however we want each month, after our regular outgoings are paid for.

The average UK household has an income of £2,083 a month; and once all the expenses are paid for, that leaves £102 a week on average in spare cash for the household to spend as it pleases.

This is £20 and 24% higher than last year, when the average household had £82 in spare cash.

However, in comparison, people living alone earn just £1,242 a month on average and have just £190 a month in spare cash. This is less than half the amount someone would have as a couple living together – cohabiting couples are in fact the most well off, with an income of £2,528 on average and £864 in spare cash (or £432 each)!

The average UK household has a ‘happiness score’ of 6.6 out of 10 (this is on a scale of 1 to 10 based on questions about past, present and future happiness), but the happiness score of those who live alone is 6.2. This is 6% lower than the average, and 13% lower than the happiest type of households – empty nesters – who have a happiness score of 7.1.

UK average Single/Lives Alone Couples Young Family Older Family Empty Nesters Housemates
Spare cash per month £441 £190 £864 £628 £441 £519 £381
Spare cash per week £102 £44 £199 £145 £102 £120 £88
Happiness index (1-10) 6.6 6.2 6.8 6.9 6.8 7.1 6.5

Ian Atkinson, head of brand at SunLife said: “Obviously there are lots of factors that affect our happiness, but we know that money is an important one, particularly how much ‘spare cash’ we have, rather than how much we earn.

“Due to the fact there is no one to split housing costs and bills with, those who live alone have the least spare cash of all the household types, which is affecting their happiness.”

For those living alone 61% of their income goes on housing, finance and bills, with 12% spent on optional spends. This leaves just 27% of their income to spend as they like.

For people living with a partner, only 50% goes on housing, bills and finance, 9% on optional spends leaving a considerably larger proportion of their income - 41% - in spare cash to spend as they like.

Cash happy also found that people who go on holiday are happier than those who don’t – people who haven’t been away have a happiness score of 5.9 out of 10, people who have had one holiday have an index of 6.6; single people go on fewer holidays - 2.1 a year – compared to the happiest group, empty nesters, who take 2.5.

Ian concludes: “Obviously it is tougher financially, living alone, as the financial responsibility is not shared. However, Cash happy has shown there are things we can do with your money that make you happier. For example, those who budget are 7% happier than those who don’t – only 39% of single people budget compared to the national average of 47% and 54% of couples.

“We also know that the happiest people in the UK are far more likely to have any savings (89% of them) than the least happy (only 60% of them) and the number of single savers is slightly lower than the UK average 77% compared to 79%, with empty nesters being the most likely savers (89%).

“So while those living alone may not be able to change their household set up, better budgeting and a more disciplined approach to saving are two ways money can make them happier that they can control.”

Here's the information that you need to know about who we are and the other companies that we work with in order to provide our products and services.

Who are SunLife?

Phoenix Life Limited trades as SunLife and is the provider of the Guaranteed Over 50 Plan, SunLife Insurance and the life insurance policy payment option for Funeral Plans. Phoenix Life Limited’s registered office is at 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 1016269). 

SunLife Limited distributes financial products and services and is a company limited by shares, registered office: 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 05460862). SunLife Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 769427).

You can contact us by post at SunLife, PO Box 1395, Peterborough, PE2 2TR or by phone on 0800 008 6060.

If you choose to add Funeral Benefit Option to your Guaranteed Over 50 Plan, Dignity Funerals Ltd arranges and provides the funeral services, registered office: 4 King Edwards Court, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP (registered in England and Wales, No. 00041598). Dignity Funerals Ltd is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

Who provides the Funeral Plans?

Dignity Funerals Ltd arranges and provides the funeral services, registered office: 4 King Edwards Court, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP (registered in England and Wales, No. 00041598). Dignity Funerals Ltd is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

The life insurance policy that pays for your funeral will be provided by Phoenix Life Limited, trading as SunLife.

Who provides My Smarter (ISA)?

My Smarter (ISA) is provided by Scottish Friendly Asset Managers Limited. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register, registration No. 188832. Member of The Investment Association. Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ.

Who provides the Will writing services?

Hugh James is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA Number:303202).

The information contained on this website is based on Hugh James' understanding of the law of intestacy in England and Wales only as at April 2014. The law in Scotland and Northern Ireland is significantly different. This is for information purposes and is not intended to be legal advice.

Who provides Family Life Insurance?

SunLife Family Life Insurance is provided by Scottish Friendly Assurance Society Limited which is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register (registration number 110002). Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ. 

Who provides SunLife Pet Insurance

SunLife Pet Insurance is arranged and administered by BDML Connect Limited. BDML Connect Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (No. 309140). Registered in England and Wales Number 02785540. Registered Office: 45 Westerham Road, Bessels Green, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 2QB.

Who provides SunLife Home Insurance

SunLife Home Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.

Who provides SunLife Car Insurance

SunLife Car Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.