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Shift Happens: Guardian research into what makes the nation happy


Consumer Behaviour
Consumer Behaviour

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New research from the Guardian - a UK-wide study of more than 2,600 adults - examines the national mood, what people are doing to live well, and how advertisers can help

Despite a pessimistic view of Britain’s health, wealth, government and economy, ‘Shift Happens’ reveals the story of a nation taking happiness and fulfilment into their own hands. It also uncovers a clear opportunity for brands: the world is ready for advertising that is impactful, culturally relevant and brings people joy. A deeper understanding of how people feel about life and everyday activities means that brands can tap into the things that really matter. 

“This brilliant research presents a really clear business opportunity for brands: provide much-needed moments of joy to help people let go and feel good about life," commented Imogen Fox, Chief Advertising Officer, Guardian News & Media. “And the Guardian is the perfect partner to help. One of the benefits of being a modern lifestyle brand is that we cover everything. Our pages are stacked with beautifully designed ideas to inspire, entertain and provoke conversation – a great place to advertise.”

You can download the full report below. Key findings include: 

People need a way to take control of their own story

  • The overall consensus of the study is that life has been tough, with 70% saying they feel like “we’ve lived through a collective trauma”. However, when asked to rate their happiness 91% say they are feeling “happy or OK”
  • When participants were asked about the wider world, there was an overwhelming sense of exhaustion, hypervigilance and anxiety. Yet a chaotic world has largely left people’s underlying levels of happiness unaffected. Nearly three times as many people rated their personal life as “good” compared to the “world out there”, while 62% say they have separated their personal lives from the outside world
  • As a coping mechanism, people are taking control by putting themselves first. By mentally separating themselves from the headlines, they are more optimistic about the future. The research confirms this: 84% say they think their personal life will get better or stay the same, while 81% say that the world will get worse or stay the same

Main character energy = a deeper understanding of ‘self’

  • Despite the trauma and upheaval of the last few years, many have experienced a therapeutic reset and moments of enlightenment: 72% say the last few years has made them re-evaluate what’s important to them, 68% are more focused on “living well”, and 70% are just getting on with life and worrying less about what they can’t control

  • The mainstream adoption of self-care means that people have learnt what makes them happy, what’s good for them, and what to leave behind. A deeper understanding of “self” means that people are more confident when it comes to saying no to activities they don’t really like doing

Personal pleasure habits & finding joy in everyday moments

  • 71% say that finding joy and happiness in everyday moments, and opportunities to escape stress are important to live well. Small joys are found in everyday activities, such as having a decent tea break; going for a walk; exercising; meditating; socialising; listening to a podcast; experiencing live events; swapping clothes; volunteering; and cooking a Friday night “fakeaway”
  • There is strong appreciation for the role relationships play in our wellbeing – 75% think good relationships are key in helping them “live well”, while 58% say good relationships have become more important to them over the last couple of years. 
  • More time is being invested with friends and family, with research participants describing their friends as “a tonic”. However, people are also more calculated with their time and who they spend it with, expecting an “ROI on friendships” – and even dumping friends when needed
  • Connections are also being made in the most surprising of places – 71% of those who engage in clothes swaps and sustainable activities do so to help them feel part of a community.
  • For singles, dating is no longer just a means of finding love – people who have started dating in the last six months are 1.6x more likely to be seeking things that help them to understand more about themselves than people in general

Download the full report here.

By Ayesha Baker, External Communications Manager

Guardian News & Media

Guardian News & Media (GNM) publishes, one of the world’s leading English-language newspaper websites. Traffic from outside of the UK now represents around two-thirds of the Guardian’s total digital audience. In the UK, GNM publishes the Guardian newspaper six days a week, first published in 1821, and the world’s oldest Sunday newspaper, The Observer.

Posted on: Thursday 27 July 2023