The UK government’s plans to monitor the wellbeing of its citizens through a ‘happiness survey’ have humoured and horrified its populace in equal measure.
But the choices and priorities that people are having to make in different economic environments are decidedly revealing in how we view British levels of consumer confidence and attitudes towards life. One example that stands out vividly this week is the approach to marriage.
In Australia, home of our sister site, Which4U.com.au, marriage remains a booming industry.
A recent report by IBISWorld in Australia has shown that couples spend an average of $36,000 (£23,000) on their wedding day, and that the industry is worth $4.3 billion (£2.75 billion).
This represents an increase of 6.5% on last year, in spite of a poor year for retail and unemployment with worse still to come.
Weddings have even been described as recession-proof. Couples are securing themselves financially, and maintaining that the once-in-a-lifetime event remains a priority and a special investment.
A Census Bureau report released in the US earlier this year revealed that Americans remain keen to marry, and that marriages are successful. 75% of marriages beyond 1990 have reached their 10-year anniversary.
This is markedly different from the UK, where the wedding industry has undergone a dramatic decline. Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that weddings have reached their lowest levels since the nineteenth century.
Furthermore, a consumer survey this week (Opinium) revealed that, of those who felt that they had to prioritise, only 22% would give marriage any priority over buying a home or starting a family.
21% of couples reported that finance was causing them to delay their decision to marry, while 8% said that the financial climate was likely to deter them permanently.
The ONS report reveals that while co-habitation levels have increased, the number of ‘unions’, wedded or otherwise, are still generally low overall.
So, is it just a case of waiting longer, and building up more savings, or do Brits no longer find the same fulfilment in marriage? Is it the British financial climate that is causing the boycott, or a more fundamental ideological difference?
We Don’t Know?
Happiness is abstract, a phenomenon, a spectrum, with no single cause or determinant. Statistics will struggle to penetrate the heart of it, and it is also folly to compare the UK and Australian economies (or their people) on any one cultural difference.
But we are all human, and it is interesting to see how consumer confidence and the value we place on things tend to combine and reflect sociological differences in wellbeing.
If you’re thinking about marriage, could you benefit from a dedicated savings account to help make it happen? We only live once. Make the most of it.