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By Quentin Gavignon

Britons who are married or in a civil partnership are most likely to be happy, according to the latest government data. A study by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), published in May also shows that people who are separated or widowed are less satisfied than people who are single.

Despite a significant rise in marital status as a factor of happiness, the study also highlights robust health as the foremost criteria for well-being. People who reported being in good health were scored three times higher in the happiness stakes than those who described being in fair health.

“Since 2011, self-reported health has always been most strongly associated with all measures of well-being,” said Gueorguie Vassilev, Head of Economic Well-Being and Digital Transformation at the ONS and one of authors of the survey

Previous ONS surveys found that respondents’ economic status was a bigger driver of happiness than their married status. But the latest figures show marriage pushing economics into third place.

“We think this could be linked to the improved labour market conditions over this period, where there is a much lower unemployment rate, and so people may be expecting, even if they do become unemployed, that they would not remain in a long-term unemployed situation,” Vassilev said.

Another ONS study carried out last year showed the number of divorces in the UK have hit a 45-year low. There were 8.3 divorces of opposite-sex couples per 1,000 married men and women in 2017. This compares with 8.9 divorces per one thousand opposite sex-couples in 2016.

The ONS results are compiled from regular surveys. Each person has to rate their level of happiness using a 0 to 10 scale. In the most recent study, people who were married or in a civil partnership rated their level of satisfaction at 7.90. Divorcees scored 7.49, people who were single 7.48 while widows and widowers scored 7.12.

However, researchers stress that while their methodology can point to links between the feeling of satisfaction and personal circumstances, and even show the strength of such relationships, it cannot prove cause and effect.